Iconic Johnson Publishing, the Company That Was Once Behind Ebony and Jet Magazines, Files for Bankruptcy

Images of Jet magazine’s first and final print editions
Images of Jet magazine’s first and final print editions
Photo: Getty

Johnson Publishing Company, the historic African-American media powerhouse responsible for the start of Ebony and Jet magazines, has filed for bankruptcy.


The company sold Ebony and Jet three years ago to a private equity firm, so Tuesday’s filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy liquidation will not affect the publications, the Chicago Sun Times reports.

However, the company plans to sell the rest of its assets, which include Fashion Fair Cosmetics.

As the Wall Street Journal reports, the decision to liquidate:

... came after failing to restructure, obtain alternative financing or find a buyer, Johnson Publishing said in a news release.

“This decision was not easy, nor should it have been,” the company added in announcing the move, the Sun Times reports. “Johnson Publishing Company is an iconic part of American and African-American history since our founding in 1942, and the company’s impact on society cannot be overstated.”

Tuesday’s filing marks another turning point for the firm begun in Chicago in 1942, when the late John H. Johnson started the company with a $500 loan and the goal of presenting positive, aspirational images of African Americans to the world.


The company also took decisive journalistic decisions, deciding in 1955 to publish in the pages of Jet images of Emmett Till’s open casket, after white men murdered him in Mississippi, to show the impact of hatred and racism.

However, since Johnson’s death in 2005, the company has struggled, selling the building that had housed the company in 2010, as well as the magazines in 2016.



Does anybody buy magazines anymore? I have a long standing GQ subscription, a magazine that I used to read but nowadays I’ve already seen all of the images online and any pertinent story coming from that issue has already been discussed before I ever see the print version rendering it almost useless.