This Black Magazine's Important Archives Were Almost Lost Forever

National Museum of African American History and Culture
Briona Lamback
October 24, 2021

Since November 1945, no news source displayed the nuances of Black life better than Johnson Publishing Company, within the vivid pages of Ebony and Jet magazines. Their iconic portraits captured the many eras of our culture. So what happened when they lost it all?

When Johnson announced it was shutting down in 2016, and filed for bankruptcy in 2019, tragedy seemed inevitable. Their archives of over 4 MILLION prints and negatives almost went up in smoke – until four institutions urgently stepped in to save them all.

Together the Ford Foundation, The J. Paul Getty Trust, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation bought the archive for $30 million. Their just-in-time purchase preserved decades of Black stories that we couldn’t afford to lose.

And the Smithsonian Institute’s National Museum of African American History and Culture and the Getty Research Institute made sure the collection was readily accessible to visitors through year-round exhibitions.

We know the importance of Black media and telling our own stories. So no matter the threat, we must always fight to preserve our culture and history – for now and for future generations to come.

We have a quick favor to ask:

PushBlack is a nonprofit dedicated to raising up Black voices. We are a small team but we have an outsized impact:

  • We reach tens of millions of people with our BLACK NEWS & HISTORY STORIES every year.
  • We fight for CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM to protect our community.
  • We run VOTING CAMPAIGNS that reach over 10 million African-Americans across the country.

And as a nonprofit, we rely on small donations from subscribers like you.

With as little as $5 a month, you can help PushBlack raise up Black voices. It only takes a minute, so will you please ?

Share This Article: