Photographs Taken in Everyday Life

Ebony’s Photojournalistic Discourse
Figure 2. Wayne F. Miller, Newborn Baby. Copyright Wayne F. Miller

IN ITS INAUGURAL ISSUE of November 1945, the monthly magazine Ebony famously editorialized that it would “try to mirror the happier side of Negro life—the positive, everyday achievements from Harlem to Hollywood. But when we talk about race as the No.1 problem of America, we’ll talk turkey.”1 Like Life nine years earlier. Ebony was an instant success; its initial printing of twenty-five thousand sold out in hours, and another twenty-five thousand copies were immediately prepared. After six months, publisher John H. Johnson announced that the magazine would accept advertising;2 eventually he secured accounts unprecedented for black journalism. Between 1949 and 1952 the magazine virtually doubled its size;3 by the 1970s Ebony’s circulation had grown to two million, and it was estimated to reach six million readers by 1980 and nine million per issue by 1992.”4

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  1. “Backstage,” Ebony, November 1945, 1; this is volume 1, number 1. I thank Regina Neal and Barbara Radin for acquainting me early on with this material.
  2. Information on Ebony’s early years can be found in Roland E. Wolseley, The Black Press, U.S.A., 2d ed. (Ames: Iowa State University Press, 1990),142. Ben Burns, Nitty Gritty: A White Editor in Black Journalism (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1996) recounts his experiences as editor at the Chicago Defender and then editor-in-chief at Ebony until 1955.
  3. Paul M. Hirsch, “An Analysis of Ebony: The Magazine and Its Readers,” Journalism Quarterly 45, 2 (Summer 1968): 264.
  4. Hirsch, “An Analysis,” 269; Wolseley, Black Press, 142; “From Negro Digest to Ebony, Jet, and EM,” Ebony, November 1992, 54

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