Reader asks about Ebony greeting cards for Black History Month
  • Vintage Ebony covers on greeting cards
  • A different view of race in 1965 Ebony issue
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    Auction Finds

    A chance to buy Ebony’s photos of history

    A few years ago, I was walking past the greeting cards section of a department store when I saw Ebony magazine covers on several cards. I had never seen any before and was delightfully surprised.

    Now I hear that Johnson Publishing Co., which is trying hard to pull itself out of a financial mire, is selling photographic prints from its archives for as low as $35. Now, that’s a bargain.

    Chairman Linda Johnson Rice told Crain’s Chicago Business newspaper that she had chosen 2,000 of Ebony’s one million photographs to sell to the public. The magazine and its slew of photographers, including the notable Moneta Sleet Jr., have been showing us the true image of black America since John H. and Eunice Johnson started it in the 1940s.

    Ebony magazine photos

    Ebony and Jet magazines were read religiously in many African American homes, never discarded but kept and and stored away. This one with Martin Luther King Jr. on the cover was among several from one woman's treasures sold at auction.

    Intrigued, I checked out the offerings, which are being sold through an online site called, which specializes in selling artwork for the home.

    This is the first time that the company has sold photos from its archives to just anybody. It had previously offered them through licensing agreements with companies, according to That’s apparently what it did with the American Greetings cards, I presume.

    On the Ebony pages at, the photos were grouped into categories – from best sellers to historical figures to famous personalities. You can even buy selected magazine cover photos from as far back as 1948. Or browse Linda Johnson’s curated collection, which seemed to contain some of the same photos as the other categories.

    Ebony magazine photos

    This isn't one of the Ebony covers for sale, but I do love this photo of Marvin Gaye from a 2008 commemorative issue.

    Here are some of the photos that caught my eye:

    Coretta Scott King and Rosa Parks in an undated photo.

    Scenes from the Montgomery Bus Boycott, 1955-1956 (a man filling a car with gas, a cab driver posing in his Good Service taxi, a group photo outside a church, several of Martin Luther King Jr. on a bus, standing outside his church, and giving interviews).

    Malcolm X, prior to giving a speech.

    Billie Holiday, looking fabulous, in a 1958 photo.

    Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra singing duets in a 1958 photo.

    Sugar Ray Robinson blowing out candles on his birthday cake, with Sammy Davis Jr. nearby.

    A gray-haired Jackie Ray Robinson giving a speech in 1962.

    Nat King Cole in an LA Dodgers uniform in 1959.

    A young Aretha Franklin cooking herself a meal at home while taking a break from the road.

    There were plenty more photos to choose from, and it was a fun and fascinating to take a step back in history with them. Swell idea, Ebony.


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