Johnson Publishing Co., owner of the iconic Ebony and Jet magazines that helped changed the negative image of black people portrayed by U.S. media, filed for bankruptcy liquidation Tuesday in a federal court in Chicago.

In announcing the Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition, the company said it was “caught in a tidal wave of marketplace changes and business issues which, despite exhaustive efforts, could not be overcome.” The issues included the bankruptcy of a major retailer that carried its Fashion Fair Cosmetics line, a “costly recall” of products and increasing competition from digital rivals, the company said.

John H. Johnson founded the company in 1942 when he launched Negro Digest with a $500 loan from his mother. The magazine summarized newspaper articles about black life.

But key to the company’s growth was Ebony magazine, founded in 1945 and patterned after Life magazine, one of the nation’s leading magazines at the time. The average monthly circulation of Ebony was around 2 million for a time in the 1990s, making it the largest magazine catering to blacks.

Advertisers were initially reluctant to display their products in black-oriented publications because of concerns on how they would be perceived by other customers if they were seen as catering to blacks. The company overcame those fears by building on personal relationships and bringing perspective advertisers to the company’s offices, Johnson officials said.

More from AP

Posted by Libergirl