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The Ebony revolution: magazine sparked major changes in perceptions and practice.

REVOLUTIONS come in different shapes, sizes and colors.

Some come shouting, with trumpets blaring, drums beating, and multitudes marching.

Some come silently, with whispers in the Soul, with 1 woman refusing to stand up on a segregated bus and 4 freshmen sitting down at a segregated lunch counter.

But however they come, and wherever they come, they are almost always preceded by the Revolution of the Word and by pictures and images preaching and testifyin' and signifying.

And to understand the revolution that EBONY helped to make and the revolution that history made in and through EBONY and its offsprings, you have to go back 60 Novembers to the first EBONY which said, among other things, that "a New World [Was] A-Coming."

The announcement came in a 52-page magazine that was a March on Washington on the level of images. For the new magazine broke through the White newsprint curtain and showed the human face of Black men and women. It showed Black men and women doing what men and women do, falling in love, getting married, going to parties, running businesses, raisin' hell, and writing books, and it proved by pictures that Black men and women could do anything in this world that other men and women could do.

This challenged the foundations of the world of 1945. For back there, at the end of World War II, segregation was triumphant almost everywhere and some people said it would last forever.

There were no Black mayors of major cities then, and there were no Blacks in Major League Baseball or major league football.

And some experts--you won't believe this--said there was something in the genes of Black people that made it impossible for them to play in the National Basketball Association.

But that was not all of it. For almost all American media, print and electronic, were engaged in a conspiracy to hide and devalue the Black personality. Looking back 44 years later, EBONY'S founder, John H. Johnson, said in his best-selling autobiography, Succeeding Against the Odds:

"If you had relied on the White press of that day, you would have assumed that Blacks were not born, because the White press didn't deal with our births.

"You would have assumed that we didn't finish high school, because the White press didn't deal with our educational achievements.

"You would have assumed that we didn't get married, because the White press didn't print our wedding announcements or pictures of Black brides and grooms cutting cakes.

"You would have assumed that we didn't die, because it didn't deal with our funerals."

This was the world that sparked the EBONY Revolution and shaped the EBONY declaration of independence for readers and consumers.

For EBONY was founded, Johnson said, to testify to a new and different world for Black and White Americans.

"In a world of negative Black images," he said, "we wanted to provide positive Black images.

"In a world that said Blacks could do few things, we wanted to say they could do everything."

And the founder went on to say something that has never been truly understood in this country: that the image is more than an incidental byproduct of struggle. For the image, properly understood, is the struggle. It is in and of itself a civil right.


The image sees.

The image acts.

The image climbs the corporate ladder and goes to the House and the Senate and the White House.

This means, among other things, that if you want to change what men and women are doing, and not doing, you must first change the image they have of themselves and their situation.

In the beginning, the EBONY Revolution laid siege to the Bastille hiding the Black image and announced a permanent revolution--which is needed today as much as it was needed in 1945--to refresh, to free and to transform the consciousness of Blacks and Whites.

This was the first stone of the EBONY Revolution, and the second was like unto it. For by this time, 1945, the great Black weekly newspapers that had sustained and transformed us in the first phase of the struggle--and the great White dailies--had reached their peak and were giving way to the blitzkrieg of the photograph, first in Life and Look, and then on TV. And publishers, all publishers, faced the challenge of mastering the new technology or going to the wall.

The EBONY Revolution saved and transformed the Black press by marrying words and pictures in living color.

"The picture magazines of the 1940s," Johnson said, "did for the public what television did for the audiences of the '50s: they opened new windows in the mind and brought us face to face with the multicolored possibilities of man and woman. The more I dealt with photographs, the more I understood their importance. I didn't see it in the beginning--I don't think anyone is that clairvoyant. But as I went from one small success to another, step by step, I began to understand the revolutionary importance of the new journalism."

The third stone-step followed as a matter of course. The EBONY Revolution created the infrastructure, the advertising, circulation, and graphic arts foundation, that led to the Black media stars and Black magazines of today.

Fourth and most importantly, the EBONY Revolution founded the new world of American media by creating the Black Consumer Market and persuading corporate America to use Black models and to advertise in Black media. Nobody understood this better than Langston Hughes, the poet laureate of Black America, who said in 1965 that "in the field of the American commercial, EBONY has been as much of a pioneer as was brownskin Matt Henson when he became the first man to set foot on the North Pole." It was not an easy struggle to make "the walls come tumblin' down," Hughes said, but EBONY did it and "now even the New York Times ... and The New Yorker picture Negro models in ads." Hughes wrote that analysis in 1965. Forty years later, almost all media are imitating EBONY, but media in general are still a long way from reflecting the revolution in living color that EBONY anticipated in the media revolution of 1945.

At the same time, the EBONY Revolution resurrected and gave new meaning to Black beauty. Black women like beautifully black Terri Springer and actress Diahann Carroll, one of EBONY'S pioneer models, gave the world a new sense of the unique beauty of Black women and the Black rain bow--black, cream, gold, and burning brown. The beauty of Black women is recognized today almost everywhere, and women of other races are imitating our features. And it can be said that the EBONY Revolution was a critically important factor in one of the greatest inventions of the 20th century, the invention of The Sister--Lena Horne and Pam Grier and Kimberly Elise and Cicely Tyson and Halle Berry and Sister President Johnnetta Cole and Sister CEO Ann Fudge and Sister Bishop Vashti McKenzie and the Sisters at Spelman and Howard and Harvard and USC and the Sisters on the blocks and in the offices with their patented sass and their locks, blonde and black and every color in-between. The best example of this perhaps is the long-running EBONY series on Black College Queens, the first and only feature of its kind to celebrate Black beauty, defined as beauty and excellence, in all its forms and shades.

On this level, and others, the EBONY Revolution was a herald of the Black corporate breakthrough. From its first issue to this the 720th issue, it proclaimed, announced, and called for Black economic leadership and Black economic development inside and outside the 'hood--and from the first November to the 60th November it has served as its own best example.

The EBONY Revolution was also the herald of African freedom. For EBONY was the only major American magazine to cover the major symbols of African independence in the 20th century--Liberia and Ethiopia--and EBONY and its sister magazine, Jet, covered every major African Independence ceremony, starting with Ghana in 1957.

Throughout all this and on into the 21st century, EBONY was a herald of the greatest revolution in the history of Black people. A witness--"Can I get a witness?'--and a participant or, better, a witness-participant, it blended the inward and outward revolutions and publicized and supported the Freedom Movement.

That's what former Congressman Louis Stokes meant when he said on the floor of Congress: "When our Black soldiers came home battle-worn from World War II to a hostile America, EBONY was there. When Rosa Parks stood up to the racist Southern establishment and refused to move from her bus seat, EBONY was there. When the Supreme Court blasted the doctrine of 'separate but equal' and allowed Linda Brown to enter the school door, EBONY walked with her. EBONY followed the steps of our great leaders, Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, both on the road to freedom and the road to the grave."

The same EBONY, the EBONY of the sit-inners and hip-hoppers and Freedom Riders, the EBONY of the NAACP and NUL and MBA and NBA, the EBONY of Beale Street and Wall Street and 125th Street and Auburn Avenue and Crenshaw Boulevard and Malcolm X Boulevard and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, the EBONY of Louis Armstrong, who helped invent New Orleans, and the EBONY of the New Orleans evacuees who speak to him and through him to the Great Black Shout that gave New Orleans and America a new song and a new meaning, the same EBONY, young and sassy as ever, calls us at this 60th turning of the road to the permanent revolution in sensibility and culture that it embodies.
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Title Annotation:EBONY 60
Author:Bennett, Lerone, Jr.
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 1, 2005
Previous Article:The Ebony story.
Next Article:Denzel, Halle & Jamie: in a historic gathering, Academy Award winners celebrate 60 years of Ebony and ponder a new role--off the screen.

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