IPR is featuring research and some of the many Black pioneers who have had an impact on the field of public relations in celebration of Black History Month.
John Harold Johnson was born on Jan. 19, 1918, in Arkansas City, Arkansas. While he attended the University of Chicago, Johnson worked part-time at Supreme Life Insurance Co. of America, a Black-owned business. He worked on the company’s in-house newsletter and was quickly promoted to editor.
In 1942, Johnson launched his own publication called the Negro Digest, later becoming Black World, under his own company, Johnson Publishing Co. In 1945, he launched Ebony, which is the number-one African American magazine worldwide every year. In 1951, Johnson created Jet, the world’s largest African American news weekly magazine.
Johnson went on to become chairman and CEO of Supreme Life Insurance along with owning several cosmetics brands. Johnson Publishing Co. later expanded to publishing books and producing television specials.
Johnson traveled to several countries with Vice President Richard Nixon, President John F. Kennedy, and President Lyndon B. Johnson while serving as an ambassador from 1957-1963.
Johnson was the recipient of the Spingarn Medal to the Most Outstanding Black Publisher in History Award from the National Newspaper Publishers Association. President Bill Clinton awarded Johnson with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1996. He died in 2005.