Since 1945, Ebony has chronicled Black life and the multitude of contributions of generations of African American icons, trailblazers, changemakers, and the unsung.
As the pandemic continues and keeps some essential milestones off the front pages, Ebony quietly changed ownership while finally receiving overdue recognition for more than 75 years of Black excellence.
“As a child, I can remember vividly the stack of Ebony magazines that adorned our family’s coffee table,” recalled Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas).
“My parents, I believe, strategically placed those magazines there so that anyone who entered that space would be exposed to the powerful messages of Black excellence displayed so wonderfully both on Ebony’s breathtaking covers and within the content of its articles,” the congresswoman declared.
Jackson Lee’s remarks came during the celebration of the book “Ebony: Covering Black America,” by Lavaille Lavette, the best-selling author and president and publisher of One Street Books and Ebony Magazine’s imprint Ebony Publishing.
Former NBA star Junior Bridgeman recently purchased Ebony and Ebony.com, a member of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), representing the largest contingent of Black-owned newspapers and media companies in America.
“Ebony kind of stood for Black excellence, showing people doing positive things that could benefit everyone,” said Bridgeman, who starred with the Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Clippers. “It just made you feel good.”
Lavette’s expansive book counts as a national treasure, which the publisher said marks not only history but also makes history.
“Growing up in the Midwest, Ebony was considered on par with the nation’s most prestigious magazines of the era, Time and Life magazines, and rightfully so,” said Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) Chair Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio).
“This book, ‘Ebony: Covering Black America,’ brings back so many memories of how we as a people relied upon Ebony to share both our strivings, setbacks, and undying determination to keep moving forward,” Congresswoman Beatty added. “This book gets people talking both about the past and about the connections between the past and our present moments as a people.”
The CBC and others joined with Lavette on Capitol Hill in April to celebrate the book and the history of Ebony. Tennis superstar Venus Williams, entertainer Common, Kimora Lee Simmons, and retired NBA champion Dwyane Wade and his wife, actress Gabrielle Union, count among the contributors to the book. Sean “Diddy” Combs also contributed to the work that features photos of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Diana Ross, Sidney Poitier, President Barack Obama, Muhammad Ali, and many others.
Lavette said she and her staff expect to peruse the market of – particularly African American – authors this summer with an eye toward a banner year of publishing in 2022. “We are standing on the shoulders of giants that set the standard high, and so I want to be sure that we keep and always are trying to improve and make it even better,” Lavette remarked. “We’re not trying to compromise an author’s experience or the type of product that we put out. It’s going to stand toe-to-toe and above what’s out there.”
Lavette continued: “I am a story hunter. The people I work with are story hunters, and there are several books we can probably announce and put out. But I want to take our time and prepare for next year so that in that process that we are going through, we’re staying steady to the vision and staying true to some of the traditional things Ebony has been known to publish like the Lerone Bennett books that speak to our culture.”
Lavette, who holds a master’s in Education, has worked as a school teacher and administrator. She also served as a special adviser to former U.S. Secretary of Education Dr. Rod Paige.
During the recent Capitol Hill visit, which also included NNPA President Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr., Lavette presented a limited commemorative edition of the book to congressional leaders. Each expressed their delight.
“Growing up in rural Sumter, South Carolina, I cherished as a teenager, devouring the pages of Ebony magazine,” said House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-South Carolina). “I recall memories of sitting in the local barbershop awaiting my turn in the chair. While waiting, my eye was always attracted to those compelling Ebony covers.
“But more than that, Ebony opened up an entire world of possibilities to my young mind by sharing stories about our people making wonderful social contributions all over the country and the world via an unmatched work ethic whether in sports, entertainment, or politics,” he said. “And that’s exactly what ‘Ebony: Covering Black America’ does today.”
Benjamin F. Chavis Jr., president and CEO of the NNPA, affirmed, “We are so proud that Ebony Magazine and Ebony Publishing are members of the NNPA and we are encouraged by the outstanding leadership of Junior Bridgeman and Lavaille Lavette who are taking Ebony and Ebony.com to the next level of the highest personification of what Black Excellence exhibits and engages in America and throughout the world. The next 75 years will be the greatest for sure.”