WASHINGTON — As part of its Black Heritage Stamp series, the United States Postal Service is honoring legendary black publisher John H. Johnson.
“We are proud to immortalize John H. Johnson as our latest inductee in our Black Heritage stamp series,” said Stephen Kearney, manager, Stamp Services. “He was the trailblazing publisher of Ebony, Jet and other magazines as well as an entrepreneur. In 1982, he became the first black person to appear on Forbes magazine’s annual list of the 400 wealthiest people in America. His magazines portrayed black people positively at a time when such representation was rare, and he played an important role in the civil rights movement. President Clinton awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1996.”
Johnson overcame poverty and racism to build a business empire embracing magazines, radio stations, cosmetics, and more. He played an important role in the civil rights movement.
His unwillingness to accept defeat was a key to Johnson’s success. When he was unable to buy a lot in downtown Chicago because of his skin color, he hired a white lawyer who bought the land in trust. Thus, Johnson became the first black person to build a major building in Chicago’s Loop, where Johnson Publishing still has its headquarters.
As Johnson’s influence, accomplishments, and fortune grew, he received many prizes and honors. He joined Vice President Richard Nixon on a goodwill tour of Africa and served as a Special United States Ambassador for Presidents Kennedy and Johnson.
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) awarded him its prestigious Spingarn Medal in 1966. Six years later, in 1972, his industry peers named him publisher of the year — a prize Johnson compared to winning an Oscar.
In presenting Johnson with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1996, President Bill Clinton lauded him for giving hope to African Americans during difficult times. A panel of experts polled by Baylor University in 2003 named Johnson “the greatest minority entrepreneur in American history.” That same year, Howard University named its journalism school after him.
The U.S. Postal Service has recognized the achievements of prominent African Americans through the Black Heritage series since 1978. This stamp honoring Johnson is the 35th stamp in that series, which highlights outstanding individuals who helped shape American culture.
The stamp, designed by art director Howard Paine, features a color photograph of John H. Johnson and will be issued in early 2012.