Adam Clayton Powell and Malcolm X attend school boycott rally in New York City, March 1964

 

BLACK-AND-WHTIE PHOTOGRAPHS of Pearl Bailey on the set of the 1954 film “Carmen Jones”; Sammy Davis Jr., hanging with the Rat Pack; Eartha Kitt reading Richard Wright’s “Pagan Spain” poolside at a swank hotel; and Coretta Scott King in mourning at her husband’s funeral, an image that won Moneta Sleet Jr., the Pulitzer Prize in 1969. These memorable photographs exemplify the expansive selection housed in the Johnson Publishing Archive.

Assembled by the company that published Ebony and Jet magazines, among other publications, the unparalleled collection documents the black experience dating back to the mid-19th century. More than 4.5 million items—photographs, contact sheets, negatives and slides, and audio and visual recordings—are contained in the archive.

Purchased last July at a Chicago bankruptcy auction, a consortium of nonprofits (Ford Foundation, J. Paul Getty Trust, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and Smithsonian Institution) acquired the archive for $30 million.

In March, the co-owners established an advisory council to evaluate and interpret the collection and provide guidance about its preservation and use. Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden chairs the 11-member council. The archive will eventually be housed at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture and the Getty Research Institute, and be made available to the public.

While many of the images have never been published, the collection reflects the spirit and contents of Johnson Publishing’s iconic magazines. The images illustrate the arc of African American history and culture—both the ordinary and extraordinary.

Prominent civil rights and Black Power figures who risked their lives fighting for the rights and dignity of African Americans, and celebrity musicians and entertainers active during those years, who were breaking ground in sports and on stage and screen, are well represented. A selection of photographs from the Johnson Publishing Archive (many of them undated) captures Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, Adam Clayton Powell, James Baldwin, Angela Davis, Maya Angelou, Jimmie Hendrix, Aretha Franklin, and Arthur Ashe, among others. CT

 


Maya Angelou relaxes in her room before performing at New York’s Village Vanguard, n.d. | Photo by G. Marshall Wilson/EBONY Collection. Johnson Publishing Company Archive: Courtesy Ford Foundation, J. Paul Getty Trust, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and Smithsonian Institution

 

James Brown captured off stage around Memphis, Tenn. | Photo by Ted Williams/EBONY Collection. Johnson Publishing Company Archive: Courtesy Ford Foundation, J. Paul Getty Trust, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and Smithsonian Institution

 


April 1968: Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of Coretta Scott King consoling her daughter, Bernice, at the funeral of her husband, Martin Luther King Jr. | Moneta Sleet Jr. /EBONY Collection. Johnson Publishing Company Archive: Courtesy Ford Foundation, J. Paul Getty Trust, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and Smithsonian Institution

 

Playing dominoes by feel, Ray Charles has game with Herman Roberts. | Photo by David Jackson/EBONY Collection. Johnson Publishing Company Archive: Courtesy Ford Foundation, J. Paul Getty Trust, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and Smithsonian Institution

 


Pearl Bailey performs as Frankie alongside dancer Carmen De Lavallade on the set of “Carmen Jones” in this undated photo. The musical film was released Oct. 5, 1954, by Twentieth Century Fox. | Photo by Howard Morehead/Ebony Collection. Johnson Publishing Company Archive: Courtesy Ford Foundation, J. Paul Getty Trust, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and Smithsonian Institution

 


James Baldwin leaving his home. | Photo by G. Marshall Wilson/Johnson Publishing Company. Johnson Publishing Company Archive: Courtesy Ford Foundation, J. Paul Getty Trust, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and Smithsonian Institution

 


Jimi Hendrix in London, England. | Photo by Charles Sanders/Johnson Publishing Company. Johnson Publishing Company Archive: Courtesy Ford Foundation, J. Paul Getty Trust, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and Smithsonian Institution

 


December 1965: Muhammad Ali is photographed in full swing against opponent Floyd Patterson in boxing match. | Photo by Herbert Nipson/ EBONY Collection. Johnson Publishing Company Archive: Courtesy Ford Foundation, J. Paul Getty Trust, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and Smithsonian Institution

 


1956: Martin Luther King Jr., and Rosa Parks during early days of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. | Photo by Moneta Sleet Jr./Johnson Publishing Company. Johnson Publishing Company Archive: Courtesy Ford Foundation, J. Paul Getty Trust, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and Smithsonian Institution

 

Montgomery Bus Boycott. | Photo by William Lanier /EBONY Collection. Johnson Publishing Company Archive: Courtesy Ford Foundation, J. Paul Getty Trust, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and Smithsonian Institution

 


Isaac Hayes performs in 1972. | Photo by Norman L. Hunter/Johnson Publishing Company. Johnson Publishing Company Archive: Courtesy Ford Foundation, J. Paul Getty Trust, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and Smithsonian Institution

 


Nat King Cole studying music before a performance. | Photo by Isaac Sutton/Johnson Publishing Company. Johnson Publishing Company Archive: Courtesy Ford Foundation, J. Paul Getty Trust, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and Smithsonian Institution

 


Triggering a bus strike, Angela Davis button was worn by Black bus drivers in Pittsburgh. | Photo by Norman L. Hunter/EBONY Collection. Johnson Publishing Company Archive: Courtesy Ford Foundation, J. Paul Getty Trust, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and Smithsonian Institution

 


Angela Davis shows a variety of expressions and moods as she discusses efforts she is involved in to bring freedom for nation’s political prisoners. | Photo by G. Marshall Wilson/EBONY Collection. Johnson Publishing Company Archive: Courtesy Ford Foundation, J. Paul Getty Trust, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and Smithsonian Institution

 


1956: Roosevelt Zanders with his fleet of limousines he uses in his New York livery service. | Bertrand Miles/Johnson Publishing Company

 


Clark Terry walks with son Rudolph under Apollo Theater marquee after Terry’s first stage show with Duke Ellington’s band in 1955. | Photo by G. Marshall Wilson/Johnson Publishing Company. Johnson Publishing Company Archive: Courtesy Ford Foundation, J. Paul Getty Trust, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and Smithsonian Institution

 


Aretha Franklin receives valuable music advice from her father, Reverend C.L. Franklin, n.d. | Photo by Isaac Sutton/Johnson Publishing Company. Johnson Publishing Company Archive: Courtesy Ford Foundation, J. Paul Getty Trust, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and Smithsonian Institution

 


UCLA tennis star Arthur Ashe competes in the National Intercollegiate tournament in Princeton, N.J. | Photo by Maurice Sorrell/ EBONY Collection. Johnson Publishing Company Archive: Courtesy Ford Foundation, J. Paul Getty Trust, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and Smithsonian Institution

 


1975: Singer Johnny Mathis. | Photo by G. Marshall Wilson/Johnson Publishing Company. Johnson Publishing Company Archive: Courtesy Ford Foundation, J. Paul Getty Trust, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and Smithsonian Institution

 


1960: Sammy Davis Jr.and members of the Rat Pack. | Photo by Moneta Sleet Jr. Johnson Publishing Company Archive: Courtesy Ford Foundation, J. Paul Getty Trust, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and Smithsonian Institution

 


Backed by Reuben Phillips and band, Eartha Kitt enthused group was “best” she has used. | Photo by Isaac Sutton/Johnson Publishing Company. Johnson Publishing Company Archive: Courtesy Ford Foundation, J. Paul Getty Trust, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and Smithsonian Institution

 


While performing at the swank El Rancho Hotel in Montreal, Canada, Eartha Kitt added exercise by the pool to her morning routine to stay in shape. | Photo by Isaac Sutton/EBONY Collection. Johnson Publishing Company Archive: Courtesy Ford Foundation, J. Paul Getty Trust, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and Smithsonian Institution

 

IMAGE: Top of page, March 1964: Adam Clayton Powell and Malcolm X attend school boycott rally in New York City. | Photo by G. Marshall Wilson/Johnson Publishing Company. Johnson Publishing Company Archive: Courtesy Ford Foundation, J. Paul Getty Trust, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and Smithsonian Institution

 

BOOKSHELF
“Theaster Gates – The Black Image Corporation” accompanies the artist’s exhibition exploring the Johnson Publishing archives, which was organized by the Prada Foundation. Published to coincide with the exhibition, “Speaking of People: Ebony, Jet and Contemporary Art” features full-color images and contributions from Studio Museum in Harlem Director Thelma Golden, curator Lauren Haynes, and artist Hank Willis Thomas, among others. “Lorna Simpson Collages” features collage portraits inspired images from Ebony and Jet magazines.

 

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