His Mother's Furniture Fueled A Black Media Movement

john h johnson portrait
Tremain Prioleau II
March 2, 2023

John H. Johnson became the leading publisher of African American news magazines in the 20th century. When no one else catered to our people, how did he do it?

In 1942, Johnson published the Negro Digest inspired by the popular Reader’s Digest. He mortgaged his mother’s furniture for the $500 he needed to fund it. Just three years later he would create his most famous publication, Ebony magazine.

Ebony was modeled after Life magazine. Ebony would center on Black life in America on a large scale. A few years later, in 1951, Johnson published Jet magazine as a Black weekly news outlet. Johnson had a foothold on media but where else did he help our people with his power?

Johnson knew that his media power could help push the message of the civil rights movement. He supported Martin Luther King, Jr. early in the civil rights fight and routinely published reports on civil rights efforts in his magazines. Our political position in this country had to be discussed and he used his platform to push the conversation forward.

Johnson’s hustle gave us the ultimate blueprint to keep Black media alive and well for years to come. We don’t have to wait for anyone’s approval. So whatever your dream may be, lean into it and make it a reality.

We have a quick favor to ask:

PushBlack Finance 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 FINANCIAL NEWS & ECONOMIC EMPOWERMENT STORIES every year.
  • We fight for ECONOMIC JUSTICE 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: