Ebony (magazine)

Ebony magazine is a monthly publication that focuses on news, culture, and entertainment. Its target audience is the African-American community, and its coverage includes the lifestyles and accomplishments of influential black people, fashion, beauty, and politics.[4][5]

60th anniversary cover with actors Denzel Washington, Halle Berry and Jamie Foxx, November 2005.
Editor-in-chiefTracey Ferguson
Former editorsKierna Mayo
Bryan Monroe
CategoriesLifestyle magazine
Total circulation
FounderJohn H. Johnson
First issueNovember 1, 1945 (1945-11-01)[2]
CompanyEbony Media Operations, LLC
Johnson Publishing Company
CountryUnited States
Based inLos Angeles, California, U.S.[3]

This magazine was founded in 1945 by John H. Johnson, who sought to address African-American issues, personalities and interests in a positive and self-affirming manner.[6] Its cover photography typically showcases prominent African American public figures, including entertainers and politicians, such as Dorothy Dandridge, Lena Horne, Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, former U.S. Senator Carol Moseley Braun of Illinois, U.S. First lady Michelle Obama, Beyoncé Knowles, Tyrese Gibson, and Tyler Perry. Each year, Ebony selects the "100 Most Influential Blacks in America".

A digest-sized sister magazine, Jet, was also founded by Johnson and his business, the Johnson Publishing Company, in 1951.[7] After 71 years, in June 2016, Johnson Publishing sold both Jet and Ebony to private equity firm Clear View Group. The new publisher is known as Ebony Media Corporation.[8][9]



Ebony was founded by John H. Johnson in 1945. The name of the magazine was created by Johnson's wife, Eunice W. Johnson, in reference to the dark wood.[10] The magazine's initial 25,000 copy press run in November of that year sold out completely.[11] Ebony's content initially focused on black sports and entertainment figures, but eventually began including black achievers and celebrities of many different professions.[12] During the 1960s, the magazine increasingly covered the Civil Rights Movement. It published about political events happening all over the U.S., in which activists protested racial violence and advocated for increasing social mobility for African Americans and Black people across the diaspora. It also published some content about the Black Power Movement. In 1965, Lenore Bennett Jr. wrote a recurring column entitled, Black Power, which featured an in-depth profile of Stokely Carmichael in 1966.[13]. Ebony also commemorated historical events that contributed to black citizenship and freedom. For example, a 1963 issue honors the 100 year anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation.[14]


Ebony's content and design began to shift in the late 1960s and early 1970s. At least three factors affected this change. First, Life magazine, the publication after which the magazine was originally modeled, declined in popularity.[15] Next, the emergence of new African-American oriented magazines, like Essence, created a new level of competition for subscribers and readers. Third, Ebony began to cover more political activism and achievements in the 1970s. The magazine's February 1971 cover, for instance, features 13 black congressmen and women. Another issue, published in 1977, highlighted the black professionals serving in Jimmy Carter's administration.[16]


The magazine reached unprecedented levels of popularity, with marketers estimating that Ebony was reaching over 40% of the black adults in the United States during the 1980s, a feat unmatched by any other general-interest magazine at the time.[17] For decades, advertisers created ads specifically for Ebony, which featured black models using their products.[18] In 1985, Ebony Man was started.[5]


In December 2008, Google announced that it was scanning back issues for Google Book Search; all issues from November 1959 to December 2008 are available for free.[19]

In 2010, the Johnson Publishing Company sold its historic building to Columbia College Chicago. The same year, Ebony began a redesign process to update its longtime brand. In the past, the magazine was persistently upbeat, much like its postwar contemporary Life. However, in the 21st century, Ebony has started to feature more controversial content. The November 2011 cover featured a pregnant Nia Long, reminiscent of the iconic image of actress Demi Moore featured naked while pregnant on a major magazine cover two decades before. Some of Ebony′s more conservative readers disagreed with the cover choice, stating it inappropriate to feature an unwed, pregnant woman on the cover. The cover made national headlines, as it was featured in US Weekly and in a five-minute segment on CNN. Recent issues questioned whether President Obama was still right for black America and whether biracial Americans need more acknowledgement in today's society.

In 2016, the company sold Ebony and Jet to private equity firm Clear View Group, but retained its Fashion Fair Cosmetics business and its historic Ebony and Jet photo archives.[20][21] In July 2019, three months after Johnson Publishing filed for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy liquidation, it sold its historic Ebony and Jet photo archives (prints and negatives) to a consortium of foundations to be made available to the public.[22][23]

Notable Coverage

100 Most Influential Blacks

One of the most infamous aspects of the magazine was its list of "100 Most Influential Blacks." This list, which began in 1963, took a hiatus until 1971, and has continued on ever since, lists those who have made the greatest impact in the black community during the year. Most of those listed were well-educated, with 55 percent having completed a graduate degree.[24] However, some researchers have noted that black scholars, teachers, and higher-education administrators are rarely, if ever, included on the list.[25][26] The list exclusively focuses on entertainment figures, politicians, philanthropists, and entrepreneurs. [27]

25 Coolest Brothers of All Time

In August 2008 the magazine had published a special eight-cover edition featuring the "25 Coolest Brothers of All Time". The lineup featured popular figures like Jay-Z, Barack Obama, Prince, Samuel L. Jackson, Denzel Washington, Marvin Gaye, Muhammad Ali and Billy Dee Williams.[28]

65th Anniversary Edition

In November 2010, the magazine featured a special 65th-anniversary edition cover featuring Taraji P. Henson, Samuel L. Jackson, Usher and Mary J. Blige. The issue included eight cover recreations from historic and iconic previous covers of Ebony. Blair Underwood posed inside, as did Omar Epps and Jurnee Smollett. Mary J. Blige used her 1940s-style image from Ebony to update her Twitter profile picture. National Public Radio marked this anniversary edition as the beginning of redesign of Ebony. Former White House Social Secretary Desiree Rogers, of the Obama administration, had become the CEO of the magazine.[29]

See also


  1. http://emo.wpengine.com/Magazines/Mediakit/Ebony/html5/index.html?page=1&noflash
  2. Sharon Shahid (October 29, 2010). "65 Years Ago in News History: The Birth of Ebony Magazine". Newseum.org. Archived from the original on January 27, 2013.
  3. Robert Channick (May 5, 2017). "Ebony cuts a third of its staff, moving editorial operations to LA". Chicagotribune.com. Retrieved June 8, 2019.
  4. Marlo Barnett and Joseph E. Flynn, "A Century of Celebration: Disrupting Stereotypes and Portrayals of Afro Americans in the Media" Archived August 18, 2016, at the Wayback Machine, 0Black History Bulletin, Vol. 77, No. 2, p. 30.
  5. Satya P. Krishnan; et al. (1997). "Coverage of AIDS in Popular Afro American Magazines" (PDF). Health Communication. 9 (3). Retrieved February 26, 2016.
  6. Wormley, J. Carlyne, et al. “Uncovering History: An Examination of the Impact of the Ebony Fashion Fair and Ebony Magazine.” Consumer Interests Annual. vol.44. 1998, pp. 148–150.
  7. Editors (November 1992). "From Negro Digest to Ebony, Jet and Em – Special Issue: 50 Years of JPC – Redefining the Black Image". Ebony. Retrieved January 3, 2009.
  8. Kai EL'Zabar, "Ebony Jet Sold!" Archived 2016-06-17 at the Wayback Machine, Chicago Defender, June 16, 2016.
  9. Sydney Ember and Nicholas Fandos, "Pillars of Black Media, Once Vibrant, Now Fighting for Survival", The New York Times, July 2, 2016.
  10. Hevesi, Dennis (2010-01-09). "Eunice Johnson Dies at 93; Gave Ebony Its Name". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-12-11.
  11. "John H. Johnson | American publisher". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2019-12-09.
  12. "Ebony | American magazine". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2019-12-09.
  13. James West (2016) Power is 100 years old: Lerone Bennett Jr., Ebony magazine and the roots of black power, The Sixties, 9:2, pp. 165-188, DOI: 10.1080/17541328.2016.1241601.
  14. Glasrud, Bruce (2007-09-18). "Ebony Magazine • BlackPast". BlackPast. Retrieved 2019-12-09.
  15. Click, J. W. “Comparison of Editorial Content of Ebony Magazine, 1967 and 1974.” Journalism Quarterly, vol. 52, no. 4, Dec. 1975, pp. 716–720. Doi:10.1177/107769907505200416.
  16. Anderson, Mia L. (2015-12-01). ""I Dig You, Chocolate City": Ebony and Sepia Magazines' Coverage of Black Political Progress, 1971–1977". Journal of African American Studies. 19 (4): 398–409. doi:10.1007/s12111-015-9309-x. ISSN 1936-4741.
  17. Staples, Brent (2019-08-11). "Opinion | The Radical Blackness of Ebony Magazine". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-12-09.
  18. Pollay, Richard W.; Lee, Jung S.; M.B.A, David Carter-Whitney (1992-03-01). "Separate, but Not Equal: Racial Segmentation in Cigarette Advertising". Journal of Advertising. 21 (1): 45–57. doi:10.1080/00913367.1992.10673359. ISSN 0091-3367.
  19. Dave Foulser (December 9, 2008). "Search and find magazines on Google Book Search". Retrieved January 3, 2009.
  20. Channick, Robert. "Johnson Publishing sells Ebony, Jet magazines to Texas firm". chicagotribune.com. Retrieved 2017-01-27.
  21. "Ebony and Jet magazines have been sold – Northstar News Today". Northstar News Today. 2016-06-15. Retrieved 2017-01-27.
  22. "Rare look inside the Ebony and Jet magazine photo archive that just sold for $30M". CBS News. July 26, 2019. Retrieved 2019-07-27.
  23. Noyes, Chandra (29 July 2019). "Foundations Unite to Save Ebony Magazine Archives". artandobject.com. Journalistic, Inc. Retrieved 3 August 2019.
  24. Henry, Charles P. (1981). "Ebony Elite: America's Most Influential Blacks". Phylon (1960-). 42 (2): 120–132. doi:10.2307/274717. ISSN 0031-8906. JSTOR 274717.
  25. “Demeaning Stereotypes: Ebony's List of the Most Influential Black Americans.” The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, no. 17, 1997, pp. 46–47. JSTOR. www.jstor.org/stable/2963216.
  26. Cross, Theodore. “Ebony Magazine: Sometimes The Bell Curve's Best Friend.” The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, no. 10, 1995, pp. 75–76. JSTOR. www.jstor.org/stable/2962770.
  27. "No Interest in Black Scholars: The Tweedledum and Tweedledee of African-American Publishing". The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education (37): 53–54. 2002. doi:10.2307/3134282. ISSN 1077-3711. JSTOR 3134282.
  28. Sewing, Joy (2008-07-09). "Ebony magazine honors the 'coolest' black men ever". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved 2019-12-19.
  29. Cheryl Corley, "'Ebony,' 'Jet' Parent Takes A Bold New Tack", NPR, 22 September 2011
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