Ebony, Jet founder immortalized on U.S. stamp

January 31, 2012

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The U.S. Postal Service will have its turn commemorating the life of John H. Johnson, a Chicago entrepreneur who made an indelible mark on African-American history.

With a loan from his mother, Johnson founded Ebony and Jet magazines. The feat was pulled off in the 1940s and 1950s, a time when positive images of blacks were scarce.

The monthly and weekly magazines have been undergoing makeovers but continue to celebrate African-American life.

The U.S. Postal Service chooses one person a year to feature on its black heritage stamp series.

“It’s a very timely choice when we look at the state of the media industry and the state of black business it does call attention to the fact in a different time we saw someone build from scratch a media empire that did make money and was very profitable,” said Mark Reynolds, a Chicago district spokesman for the Postal Service.

Ebony and Jet covered the civil rights movement and furthered America’s understanding of black people. The publications continue to underscore aspects of black life that are still ignored in mainstream media. Johnson was the first African-American to make Forbes magazine’s list of wealthiest Americans. Considered an astute businessman, Johnson also hobnobbed with and advised U.S. presidents.

The stamp will be unveiled Tuesday morning at Johnson Publishing Company headquarters on Michigan Avenue.

Johnson died in 2005.