THE BIOGRAPHY OF JOHN H. JOHNSON
Publisher and Chairman
Johnson Publishing Company, Inc.
H. Johnson is a shining example of what is possible for
African Americans once they are allowed the opportunity to fulfill their potential.
Born in humble circumstances in Arkansas City, Arkansas, on January 19, 1918, Johnson began his education in a crowded segregated elementary school. Because there was no public high school for African Americans in Arkansas City in 1930s, Johnson’s education would have ended there but for the persistence of his widowed mother. She moved with her son to Chicago and became a part of the Great Migration of 1933.
Johnson enrolled in DuSable High School and proved to be an excellent student. He was president of his class, editor-in-chief of the high school paper, and won a scholarship to the University of Chicago. He later landed a job with Supreme Liberty Life Insurance Company where his duties
entailed collecting news and information about African Americans and preparing a weekly digest. It was there that he got the idea for starting his first magazine, Negro Digest, in 1942.
In 1945, Johnson launched his second publication, Ebony, highlighting the successes of African Americans. Six years later, he created Jet, focusing on African Americans in politics, entertainment, business, and sports. Johnson subsequently added book publishing, Fashion Fair Cosmetics, several radio stations, and majority ownership in Supreme Liberty Life Insurance. In 1982, he was the first African American to be included in Forbes Magazine’s 400 Richest Americans. Johnson's 1989 autobiography, "Succeeding Against The Odds," was a national bestseller in hardcover and paperback, and an updated version will be published in 2004.
Johnson holds five honorary degrees from major universities, including Howard, Morehouse, and Harvard. Earlier this year, Johnson donated $4 million in support of the School of Communications at Howard University. His gift will help to continue a legacy of visionary leadership in the field of communications, particularly the mass media industry.