Over four million negatives and prints from Ebony and Jet, both produced via the Johnson Publishing Company starting in the 1940s and ’50s, have been acquired by the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) and the Getty Research Institute, according to a joint statement by the two entities.
The Getty Trust is putting up $30 million towards processing the digitization of photographic negatives, photos, and audio and visual recordings, which will be displayed at the NMAAHC in Washington, DC.
“For decades, Ebony and Jet documented stories of Black celebrity, fashion, and the Civil Rights Movement and provided an opportunity for African Americans to see an authentic public representation of themselves while also offering the world a fuller view of the African American experience,” Kevin Young, director of the NMAAHC, said in a statement.
“Our museum is proud that this significant and iconic collection of African American images will be housed in our museum and preserved for generations to study, observe and enjoy,” Young added.
The collection of archives is currently being housed in Chicago for protective purposes. A special archival team known as the “Blackivists” have been tasked with cataloging and assessing the vast collection before its relocation to Washington, D.C.
Ebony and Jet were first founded by John and Eunice Johnson in 1942. Since the magazines began publishing in 1945 and 1951 respectively, their publications offered a unique and authentic look into the Black experience in America.
According to the NMAAHC, the archive of photos, videos, and stories “reveals myriad facets of the Black experience and allows viewers to consider American life of the last century through the eyes of Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Maya Angelou, Shirley Chisholm, and scores of Black activists, advocates, artists, athletes, entertainers, poets, politicians, students, writers, and everyday people.”