Publisher John H. Johnson, Aug. 8 John H. Johnson, the innovative publisher of Ebony and Jet magazines who countered mid-20th century publishing stereotypes by providing positive coverage of blacks in mass-marketed publications, died Monday, Aug. 8, 2005, at a hospital in Chicago. He was 87. Johnson founded his company in 1942 with a $500 loan on his mother's furniture and began publishing the now-defunct Negro Digest. He built the circulation from 5,000 to 50,000 copies a month within a year. A year later, circulation soared to 100,000 when Johnson persuaded First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt to write the column, "If I was a Negro." Mr. Johnson started the glossy Ebony in 1945, at the end of World War II, as black soldiers were returning home and wanted to create a better lifestyle. The first pressrun for the monthly magazine was 25,000. By 1997 it was 1.9 million. He launched the weekly news magazine Jet in 1951 and added the monthly Ebony Man in 1985. "White racists knew they could do anything to black folks and it would never be reported in the white press," comedian Dick Gregory told The Times in 2002. "But with Jet around, that changed."
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