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John H. Johnson: Stamp of approval

Legendary JET publisher John H. Johnson today joins the ranks of such African-American game changers as Medgar Evans, Jesse Owens and Mahalia Jackson when the U.S. Postal Service unveils a stamp in his honor.

The 2012 “Forever” stamp gets a first viewing today – both here on this site and through the USPS’s social media sites – and will be available for purchase next year.

Johnson, who in 1942 parlayed a $500 loan into what would be the first publication in a media empire that has reached across the decades to shine a beacon on Black culture, likely would be proud to be placed in the company of some of the luminaries his magazines have featured.

His groundbreaking Negro Digest hit the stands in November of ’42 and gave voice to the hopes, fears and accomplishments of a people who were ignored by the major press of the times. It struck a chord with readers and struck gold on the business front. And with the introduction of Ebony magazine in 1945, followed by JET six years later, Johnson’s status as a leading rainmaker in the publishing field was affirmed.

His daughter Linda Johnson Rice, who continues his business legacy as chairman of Johnson Publishing Company, Inc., says, “I am so pleased that the U.S. Postal Service has chosen to acknowledge my father’s visionary achievements with a stamp. It’s a well-deserved honor and one that brings great pride to the JPC family.”

John H. Johnson died in 2005 in Chicago, the city in which he built his storied empire. He was 87.

The Postal Service introduced its Black Heritage series, which showcases African-American history makers like Presidential Medal of Freedom award recipient Johnson, in 1978.

Stephen Kearney, the USPS’s manager of stamp services heralds John H. Johnson as a trailblazing publisher whose magazines “portrayed Black people positively at a time when such representation was rare…” Kearney also credited Johnson’s role in the civil rights movement.

For updates on the USPS’s first-day-of-issue events, keep checking its Web site.