2012 45¢ John H. Johnson
Issue Date: January 31, 2012
City: Chicago, IL
Printed By: Ashton Potter
Printing Method: Offset
John H. Johnson (1918-2005) was the most influential black publisher in U.S. history. In 1945, Johnson introduced Ebony, the world’s largest black-owned magazine. Over the course of his 60-year publishing career, Johnson helped destroy stereotypes, advance the cause of civil rights, and encourage pride among black Americans.
By featuring successful businessmen, entertainers, and politicians in his magazines, Johnson challenged popular misconceptions about his race.
In August 1955, Emmett Till was brutally killed in Mississippi. His mother insisted on an open casket at the funeral. Johnson’s news magazine, Jet, published a picture of the 14-year-old’s body, putting a face on the reality of racial prejudice. The image was a catalyst for the civil rights movement. Johnson covered freedom rides, marches, and civil rights legislation from the black perspective.
Johnson published articles by historians telling about the contributions of black Americans. By portraying positive images of African-American life, Johnson encouraged pride in the culture.
In 1996, President Bill Clinton awarded John Johnson the Presidential Medal of Freedom because he gave “African Americans... a new sense of who they were and what they could do.”