Foundations Unite to Purchase Ebony and Jet Archives

By Kenrya Rankin Jul 26, 2019

It looks like the iconic Ebony and Jet archives will have a safe new home.

On Thursday (July 25), a consortium of nonprofits announced that it acquired the full archive of Johnson Publishing Company (JPC), which published both magazines. The purchase is a joint effort of the Ford Foundation, The J. Paul Getty Trust, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Per a statement, the group paid $30 million for the archive, which contains more than 4 million prints and negatives that catalog the lives of Black people living in the United States. The sale was part of JPC’s chapter 7 bankruptcy proceedings, which included an auction of assets. After the sale is finalized, the archive will be donated to cultural institutions including the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) and the Getty Research Institute.

“We’re thrilled with the outcome. This archive is a national treasure and one of tremendous importance to the telling of Black history in America,” said Ford Foundation president Darren Walker in the statement. “We felt it was imperative to preserve these images, to give them the exposure they deserve and make them readily available to the public.”

Lonnie Bunch III, founding director of NMAAHC and secretary of the Smithsonian, added, “Ebony and Jet magazine helped shape our nation’s history, allowing Americans—of all colors—to see the full panorama of the African-American experience. Together, our organizations will ensure these images, stories and the history of these publications are well-preserved and available to the public and future generations.”