Random thoughts of a free Black mind, v. 331

JET

Johnson Publications Company – I’ve hated to see this Black iconic media empire dismantled piece by piece over the years.

The impact of the JPC’s brilliant husband and wife team of John H. Johnson and Eunice Johnson had on Black America is incalculable. Their fingers were on the pulse of our people in a way that nobody had before or since.

From the late 1950s through the 1990s, there wasn’t a coffee table in a Black home in America that didn’t have a copy of JET or Ebony magazines. Mr. Johnson pioneered the “digital” style of content publishing (sharp, punchy headlines, short stories, lots of pictures) 50 years before the Internet – that was to ironically kill Ebony and JET – was born. Our own “Florida’s Finest” is a homage to JET’s “Beauty of the Week.”

Mrs. Johnson’s Ebony Fashion Fair raised millions of dollars for Black community-based organizations all over America, while promoting JPC productions (including Fashion Fair Cosmetics). A ticket got you a six-month subscription to Ebony or Jet, with half the proceeds going to the local sponsoring organization. Folks bought special outfits for that one time a year when commentator Shayla Simpson, the models, and a live band stopped in your town.

I was a Fashion Fair groupie. I’d get press credentials to cover Fashion Fair at every Florida stop just to meet the models. I drove to Florence, S.C. to visit one, and ended up dating her sister (who was finer) instead…

I think about JET’s pictures.

I saw Emmett Till’s unrecognizably mangled face, published at the request of his grieving mother. She wanted the world to see what her 14-year-old son looked like after two White men nearly beat him to death, gouged out one eye, shot him in the head, then tied him to a 75-pound fan blade and threw his body in the river after he allegedly whistled at a White woman in Mississippi.

I saw the picture of soul singer Otis Redding’s dead body, with Otis still strapped in his seat after he was killed in a 1967 plane crash.

Then there was Jet’s Beauty of the Week. At Morehouse College, guys had entire rooms plastered ceiling to floor with Beautys. No Black barbershop ever threw away a copy of JET because Black beauty never gets dated.

Just the memories remain. SAD!


I’m at ccherry2@gmail.com.

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