UpwardAction Salutes Publishing Legend John H. Johnson

UpwardAction Salutes Publishing Legend John H. Johnson


“When I see a barrier, I cry and I curse, and then I get a ladder and climb over it.”  ~John H. Johnson

This attitude of determination served the founder of Johnson Publishing Company well throughout his life.  Mr. John H. Johnson is a media mogul who spent his life building businesses that continue to give African Americans a powerful and positive voice.

Through media, print, and publishing, Mr. Johnson’s goal was to create “a new sense of somebody-ness” in the black community.”    ~ As quoted in Entrepreneur.com.

Thanks to Mr. Johnson’s leadership and the continued leadership of his daughter Linda Johnson Rice,  Johnson Publishing Company continues to be the “leading curator of the African-American experience – past, present and future.”


A Commitment to Education and Success

Mr. Johnson credits much of his success to his mother.  He was only six years old when he lost his father. Everyone in the family had to work to make it. As a “working child,” Mr. Johnson says that he learned how to work before he learned how to play.

Upon his mother’s insistence, Mr. Johnson completed school up to the 8th grade – and with no available high school for blacks to attend in Arkansas City, Mr. Johnson’s mother worked hard to save enough money to move to Chicago with the hope of a better future for her son.

In 1933, in the midst of the Great Depression, Mr. Johnson and his mother did arrive in Chicago. They relied on welfare for two years, but were determined to achieve a better life.

After moving to Chicago, he attended DuSable High School and graduated with honors. It was upon this accomplishment that he came to meet Harry H. Pace (president of Supreme Liberty Life Insurance Company of America and a leading black businessman in Chicago) who offered him a job to pay his college tuition.

These humble beginnings are responsible for Mr. Johnson's deep desire to succeed and making a significant contribution to the African American community.

Mr. Johnson attended Chicago University and his passion for media developed. He saw a need for news from the African American world and perspective. As a result of this need, he founded his publishing company in 1942, and the rest is history.


A Determined Spirit

Mr. Johnson has said that he owes is success to his mother, his faith and his work ethics. In his words …

You have to work hard, you have to have commitment, and you have to have faith. You have to believe that things are possible.”

Wise words from a wise man!

Mr. Johnson passed away in 2005 at age 87 leaving an inspiring legacy for entrepreneurs of color who are committed to building community while building wealth.

You can learn more about Mr. John H. Johnson and his remarkable story on American National Business Hall of Fame, Entrepreneur.com, Johnson Publishing Company and Wikipedia.

Staff Blogger

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