New stamp features Ebony, Jet founder Johnson

February 1, 2012 4:23:24 AM PST
In time for the start of Black History Month, the U.S. Postal Service issued a stamp honoring John H. Johnson, the publisher of Ebony and Jet magazines.

Johnson died in 2005.

At Johnson Publishing Co. on S. Michigan Avenue, it was a day to celebrate the life of John Johnson, a man who gave African Americans a new pride in themselves, and also helped create a new image of blacks for the rest of America. The big names were there to honor Johnson and celebrate the unveiling of the commemorative stamp.

Johnson died in August 2005 as one of the richest men in America. His daughter, Linda Johnson Rice, thinks her dad would love the stamp.

"He was a man who was larger than life, and so now when you put that stamp on your letter, he'll be all over the world," said Johnson Rice, who is chairman of Johnson Publishing Co.

It's just a small stamp telling the story of the almost 70-year career of a young man with a dream of publishing magazines that tell the true story of life in the black community.

"He was a pioneer in publishing, providing African-American writers a canvas and African-American culture a showcase," said Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

We sometimes tend to forget, but before Ebony and Jet, there were no magazines about blacks in America.

"Occasionally, Life magazine would have a black picture in it. But magazines - there weren't any black magazines until John Johnson," said U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush (D-1st Dist.).

How influential was John H. Johnson? A story former Chicago mayor Richard M. Daley told Tuesday helps highlight Johnson's influence. The story had to do with Johnson, Michigan Avenue, the Johnson Publishing building, and a very, very rare driveway.

"[In] 1971, when he purchased this land, he talked about restrictions. My dad wanted to make a statement: from Oak Street all the way to Roosevelt Road, there was never a driveway, but when he built this building, there was a driveway," said Daley.

A special driveway - just a very small part of a giant legacy. John Johnson has left his stamp on the world.