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date: 26 October 2020


  • Todd Steven Burroughs


A successful digest-size picture magazine focusing on African American entertainment and news, Jet was created in 1951, six years after John H. Johnson first published Ebony magazine. Jet was modeled after small, white-oriented “pocket magazines” like the now-defunct Quick magazine in the same way that Ebony was modeled after the big-picture Life and Look magazines and that Negro Digest (later called Black World) was modeled after Reader's Digest magazine. Johnson built Johnson Publishing Company (a black business empire) based on the success of both Jet and its “big brother” publication, Ebony. The small weekly magazine had a ubiquitous presence in black communities, especially in small community liquor stores, barber shops and bodegas in urban areas. This popular access has given Jet—a publication with an average circulation of 900,000—the nickname coined by the comedian Redd Foxx: “The Negro Bible.”

The idea behind the name Johnson explained ...

A version of this article originally appeared in The Encyclopedia of African American History, 1896 to the Present.

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