EBONY MAGAZINE AND LERONE BENNETT JR.
From its launch in 1945, Ebony magazine was politically and socially influential. However, the magazine also played an important role in educating millions of African Americans about their past. Guided by the pen of Lerone Bennett Jr., the magazine’s senior editor and in-house historian, Ebony became a key voice in the popular black history revival that flourished after World War II. Its content helped push representations of the African American past from the margins to the center of the nation’s cultural and political imagination.
E. James West's fresh and fascinating exploration of Ebony’s political, social, and historical content illuminates the intellectual role of the iconic magazine and its contribution to African American scholarship. He also uncovers a paradox. Though Ebony provided Bennett with space to promote a militant reading of black history and protest, the magazine’s status as a consumer publication helped to mediate its representation of African American identity in both past and present.
LERONE BENNETT JR.
A LIFE IN POPULAR BLACK HISTORY
Building on my doctoral work and my first book with the University of Illinois Press, this project offers the first critical biography of Lerone Bennett Jr., one of the most influential and widely read black historians in modern American history.
As a young black boy coming of age in Jim Crow Mississippi, Lerone Bennett Jr. used black history as a tool to make sense of his own situation and the fortunes of African Americans across the country. His hunger for knowledge would lead him to the famed Morehouse College in Atlanta, a position at the Atlanta Daily World, the only black daily newspaper in America, and then northwards to Chicago and the largest black publishing company in the world, where he established a reputation as a leading black popular historian. At Johnson Publishing, Bennett used his platform to participate in an incredible array of black intellectual and activist endeavors - stretching from Northwestern University to newly independent black nations in Africa. For more than fifty years, his passion for telling black history 'from a black perspective' cemented his position as one of the most popular journalists and black historians in the country
A HOUSE FOR THE STRUGGLE
THE BLACK PRESS AND THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT IN CHICAGO
Since the publication of pioneering black press outlets such as Freedom's Journal during the early nineteenth century, black periodicals in the United States have functioned as a vehicle for community building and racial uplift. Yet what of the buildings that housed black periodicals? How did the places and spaces used by black publications function as an extension and embodiment of this mission? What can the history of black media architecture tell us about the publications which they housed? And where did media buildings fit within the highly contested and constantly changing geographies of black Chicago?
Far more than just production spaces, black media buildings carried a range of symbolic meanings and literal functions - from political hubs to art galleries, exhibition spaces, community centers and Soul Food restaurants.
Blending architecture, cultural history and media studies, this book offers a bold intervention into histories of black publishing and print culture in the United States. It traces the relationship between Chicago's black press and the built environment during the twentieth century; from the kitchen-table origins of the Chicago Defender, to the grand unveiling of Johnson Publishing Company's lavish new headquarters at 820 South Michigan Avenue during the early 1970s.