The treasure trove of 4 million iconic photos from Ebony and Jet magazines has found a new owner.
A consortium of foundations have acquired the archive of the magazine’s now-bankrupt former publisher Johnson Publishing Company for $30 million following a week-long auction. The Ford Foundation, The J. Paul Getty Trust, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation have agreed to donate the archives to the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, the Getty Research Institute “to ensure the broadest access for the general public and use by scholars, researchers, journalists, and other interested parties.”
“There is no greater repository of the history of the modern African-American experience than this archive.” James Cuno, president of The J. Paul Getty Trust, said in a statement. “Saving it and making it available to the public is a great honor and a grave responsibility.”
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Soon after declaring bankruptcy in April of this year, Johnson Publishing announced it would be selling the archive to repay a debt owed to an entity controlled by businesswoman Mellody Hobson, who was just named co-CEO of Ariel Investments, and her husband, filmmaker George Lucas.
The collection includes iconic images of Emmett Till lying in his coffin and Coretta Scott King, mourning at the funeral of her husband, Martin Luther King Jr., as well as Sammy Davis Jr., Diana Ross, Nat “King” Cole, Muhammad Ali, Jackie Robinson, Prince and Stevie Wonder. There are also snapshots of everyday life with images depicting the black church, food and fashion.
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“Ebony and Jet magazine helped shape our nation’s history, allowing Americans — of all colors — to see the full panorama of the African American experience. Together, our organizations will ensure these images, stories and the history of these publications are well-preserved and available to the public and future generations,” Lonnie Bunch, founding director of the museum and Secretary of the Smithsonian, said in a statement.
The sale, which began at an auction last Wednesday, is scheduled to close Friday pending the outcome of a hearing to approve the move.
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