The late John H. Johnson, founder of Ebony and Jet magazines, will be honored with an official state holiday on November 1. The holiday, which was established this year by the Arkansas Legislature during the 92nd General Assembly, recognizes the Desha County native and celebrates his legacy as founder, publisher, chairman and chief executive officer of Johnson Publishing Company, once the largest Black-owned publishing company in the world, according to a news release announcing the new state holiday events.
The official holiday events will take place at two locations on November 1. An event in Arkansas City will be held from 10 a.m. until noon at the John H. Johnson Museum and Educational Center, located at 604 President Street/Courthouse Square. An event in Little Rock will be held from 5:30 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. at the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center, located at 501 West 9th Street.
November 1 was the day selected for the John H. Johnson Day because November 1, 1945 was the date Johnson launched Ebony Magazine, according to Friends of John H. Johnson Museum, the museum curators.
“His lifestyle magazines created positive images and content for not only Black America but for how White America should see Black America,” a John H. Johnson Day spokesperson wrote in the news release announcing the John H. Johnson Day events.
Dr. Margena A. Christian, co-author of the book, “Empire: The House That John H. Johnson Built”, said it is fitting to choose November to honor Johnson.
“Mr. Johnson would always say November was his golden month,” Christian said.
Christain, who worked closely with Johnson at his publishing company in Chicago, will be the guest speaker at the John H. Johnson Museum the Mosaic Templars Culture Center events.
The John H. Johnson Museum was established in 2004, with Johnson in attendance at its grand opening. For this year’s holiday observance, the museum will be open from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. with an official John H. Johnson Day signing, school participation and student activities, museum tours and a book presentation by Christian.
Dr. Barbara Lofton, director of Diversity and Inclusion at the Sam M. Walton College of Business (WCOB) at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville will present the John H. Johnson Entrepreneur Award to a power couple who embodies the entrepreneurial spirit of Johnson.
This year’s John H. Johnson Entrepreneur Award recipients are Eddie Armstrong and Sherra Armstrong founders of Cannabis Capital Group.
Mr. Hosea Sanders, a television anchor at ABC 7 WLS Chicago, will present the John H. Johnson Journalism and Media Award to a couple who excels in journalism and multimedia.
This year’s Journalism and Media Award recipients are Renarda Williams and Helaine Williams with the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
John H. Johnson Day events in Arkansas City and Little Rock are free and open to the public. RSVP at Eventbrite.com is required for the Little Rock celebration due to seating capacity.
A limited number of Christian’s book “Empire: The House That John H. Johnson Built”, will be available for $25 at the John H. Johnson Museum in Arkansas City on November 1, from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. or may be purchased in advance at Eventbrite.com. Books will not be sold at the Little Rock commemoration. Proceeds from the book sales will support John H. Johnson Museum’s programs and John H. Johnson Day.
John H. Johnson was born in Arkansas City, Arkansas in 1918. His mother moved the family to Chicago after Johnson finished the 8th grade.
Johnson was the recipient of more than 30 honorary doctorate degrees, including degrees from Carnegie Mellon University, Eastern Michigan University, Harvard University, University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, University of Southern California and Wayne State University.
He was inducted into the Sam M. Walton College of Business Arkansas Business Hall of Fame, the Chicago Journalism Hall of Fame and the Illinois Business Hall of Fame. He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Harvard University’s Distinguished Service Award, the American Advertising Federation’s Lifetime Achievement Award, the Horatio Alger Award, and the Wall Street Journal Dow Jones Entrepreneurial Excellence Award, as well as other awards.
An honorary member of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Johnson served on numerous boards including, Bell and Howell, Chrysler Corporation, Continental Bank, Dial Corporation, Dillard’s, Inc., Greyhound, Twentieth Century Fox, and Zenith Radio Corporation, among others.
Johnson was the first African American to appear on Forbes Magazine’s list of 400 wealthiest Americans. For more information on John H. Johnson Museum and John H. Johnson Day, visit johnhjohnsonmuseum.org.
In related news, the McGehee School District was awarded a $2,700 Arkansas Humanities Council grant for students and teachers participating in the John H. Johnson Day. The grant will pay for the cost of transportation to the John H. Johnson Museum, purchase copies of Christian’s book, “Empire: The House That John H. Johnson Built”, and purchase art supplies.