Ebony Magazine is selling one of its most valuable assets in order to survive
By Ashley Naples
Ebony Magazine, owned by the Johnson Publishing Company, is one of the most storied and respected media outlets in the country. The publishing industry has come upon hard times, and companies are struggling to survive. Johnson is one of the last holdouts in an industry where many black companies are selling themselves for the protection of a large corporate white knight.
But the struggle hasn’t been easy.
Johnson has announced that it is seeking to raise $40 million in much-needed capital in order to continue its operations. The company is selling five million pictures that have been taken by the magazine since its inception, an archive that is considered priceless for the African American community.
Over the last 70 years, the company has become a recording mechanism for many of the biggest moments in Black history, including the achievements of Dr. Martin Luther King, Sammy Davis Jr. and many others. The collection has been appraised and Johnson Publishing is now looking for its buyer.
“It’s just sitting here,” said Johnson Publishing CEO Desiree Rogers. “We really need to monetize that in order to ensure growth in our core businesses.”
Ebony was founded in 1945. One of its most valuable photos is the one of Coretta Scott King standing with her daughter Bernice at the casket of their father, Martin Luther King Jr. at his funeral in 1968. The image won a Pulitzer prize for Moneta Sleet Jr. the first African American to receive such an award.
“This is an incredibly important archive.” said Mark Lubell, executive director of New York’s International Center of Photography. “It is the definition of the African American experience in the latter half of the 20th century, and it’s an amazing, valuable asset.”