Oh. Goodness. To be clear, Ebony never left us, but it did sort of lose influence in the Black Community. But, wow, have they stepped up. And, I’m prouder than ever to pass by their headquarters here in Chicago (on South Michigan Avenue).
To give a little background, Ebony (launched in the 1940s by the Johnson Family) was by far the most popular, influential Black Magazine in America for decades. At its peak, Ebony was home to Pulitzer Prize winning photographer Moneta Sleet, Jr., among other giants in the publishing field. By the 21st Century, their popularity (along with magazines in general) had waned, and by 2010, they well undersold expectations and were in need of an aesthetic revamp. There was talk of selling the magazine. But, first they gave it another shot.
The first move they made was to bring in Desiree Rogers as CEO. Then they hired Amy DuBois Barnett (of Honey Magazine [sadly shuttered circa 2006]) as Editor, and brought in young, fresh talent from Vanity Fair and a slew of other sources. Next, the team commenced in the first full overhaul of the magazine since 1945. The first revamped Ebony was published in April 2011.
In recent offerings, they’ve captured cutting edge yet approachable black culture, art, music, and thought (recent features have covered topics as varied as the recent retrospective of Black visual artist Glenn Ligon, underground soul /vocalist Jesse Boykins III, what Black Fashion Bloggers were wearing during New York’s Fashion Week [hint: it was fly], and cultural critic Touré unpacked the rhetoric of “Post-Blackness“). They also represent the full tonal spectrum of black beauty in their fashion/beauty sections, something that had been slipping a bit in recent years. For more on Ebony’s legacy in the fashion world, click here.
In short, they worked it out. It shows. Check out September 2011’s cover, above.
As of 2011, Ebony’s circulation averaged 1,235,865 (a 10.9 percent increase), and Jet’s swelled to 820,557 (a 7.6 percent increase).