Johnson Publishing Company, the former publisher of Ebony and Jet magazines, has filed for bankruptcy.
The company filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy on Tuesday, according to The Chicago Sun-Times.
“This decision was not easy, nor should it have been,” Johnson Publishing said in a statement. “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.”
Johnson Publishing Company was founded by John H. Johnson, who had to get a $500 loan against his mother’s furniture to start the business. When he wanted to buy office space to house the operation, he had to bring a white man with him and pretend he was a janitor. Johnson died in 2005 at 87 years old. He succumbed to heart failure.
The first Ebony magazine was published in November 1945, and Jet was created six years later. Ebony and Jet were praised for showing positive images of Black American life. Jet famously published a picture of Emmett Till’s corpse, a move partially responsible for galvanizing the Civil Rights Movement.
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Fashion Fair cosmetics, an offshoot of Johnson, was established in 1973 and was a pioneer for women of color in the beauty industry. Ebony continues to publish print and online content, but Jet went completely digital in 2014. Both were sold to Clear View Group in 2016 and will not be affected by the bankruptcy filing.
Johnson Publishing Company will sell Fashion Fair and its archives during the bankruptcy proceedings. The Chicago Tribune reports the company had $10 million to $50 million in assets at the time of the filing.
Former Johnson CEO Desiree Rogers is one of the creditors along with retail companies Macy’s and Hudson-Bay.
Johnson Publishing Co. attributed its downfall to an inability to keep up with the times.
The company’s statement admitted it “was caught in a tidal wave of marketplace changes and business issues which, despite exhaustive efforts, could not be overcome.”
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