John H. Johnson

John H. Johnson 

Publisher & Entrepreneur

John Harold Johnson was born in Arkansas City, Arkansas on January 19th, 1918. At age 15 his family relocated to Chicago. As an honors student at Du Sable High School, he served as editor of the school newspaper and the manager of the yearbook. These experiences sparked an interest in journalism as he attended the University of Chicago and Northwestern University.

Johnson’s affinity for his community and desire to write stories that would appeal to them led to his first successful magazine, Negro Digest, in 1942. Although he was not the first to attempt writing with the Black community as a target audience, he was the first to attain his level of success. In fact, many of the well-known Black magazines are distributed by Johnson Publishing Company. He started Ebony Magazine in 1945; today it has a circulation of over 1.7 million copies per month. In the 1950s, the company created Jet Magazine and started thinking of other ways to reach the Black community. They started publishing books, manufacturing cosmetics, broadcasting on radio, and opened a life insurance company.

For all of this hard work and dedication towards uplifting Black Americans, in 1996, President Clinton awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom. John Harold Johnson died in August 2005, and his daughter, Linda Johnson Rice, currently manages the company.

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