Before there was a radio or television in every home during the era of separate and decidedly unequal, JET reflected the lives of African-Americans transcending the boundaries of racial oppression. From the very beginning, JET spread the gospel of economic success and upward mobility. But none of it could have been done without the strength and courage of one man’s dream.
Turning Theory Into Practice
John h. Johnson had an idea— to reach masses of Black folks around the country and affirm their lives as beautiful and worthy. This idea planted itself in his heart and mind. The more Black faces were missing from newspapers and magazines, the more determined he became.
He launched Negro Digest in 1942, reaching people in Black households and storefronts nationwide who yearned to see their values, lives and ambitions reflected in a culture that held them in legal, racial contempt.
“It’s so vitally important, particularly for young people, to see themselves in the written narrative,” remarks TV host and Johnson’s lifelong admirer Tavis Smiley. “Every week in JET you could see that your dreams were not ridiculous or outlandish because other people were actually living out those same aspirations. JET was a weekly affirmation of who we are.”
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