Joan Johnson, Co-Founder Of The Iconic Afro Sheen Empire, Dead At 89

September 10, 2019  |  

Naomi Sims

Source: Michael Ochs Archives / Getty

The co-founder of one of, if not the most important Black hair care brand, has died according to CNN.

According to the reports, Joan Johnson died on Friday in Chicago, due to a long, undisclosed illness. She was 89-years-old. In 1954 Joan Johnson and her husband, George E. Johnson, started the Johnson Products Company, which grew to become the first Black company to be traded at the New York Stock Exchange in 1971.

The Johnson’s were able to invest a $250 and flip it into a multi-million dollar company which produced the staple products that many of us came to know as part of of our daily hair care routines, like Afro Sheen and Ultra Sheen.

Products like Afro-Sheen and Ultra Sheen were also highly visible in pop culture as one of the staple items on the iconic show Soul Train.

Prior to the company’s purchase by Proctor and Gamble in 2004, JPC dominated 30 percent to 40 percent of the Black haircare market over the course of 25 years.

“When I think about pioneers, the real pioneers are the people who are able to make a path where none exists,” Eric G. Johnson, her son, told CNN. “Johnson Products in many ways was that company. She and my father had no provided path. They created a path where there was none.”

Johnson is also heralded as an advocate for Black women and was a trustee at Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia. According to her obituary which was shared with CNN, her family intends on launching an annual scholarship in her honor.

“She truly was a grande dame in every sense of the work,” said Linda Johnson Rice, CEO of Johnson Publishing Company, which formerly published Ebony and Jet magazines. “Dignified, smart, sharp-witted and fun. I have many fond memories of my conversations with her…dispensing life advice. Her life is one to be celebrated.”
Funeral services for Johnson will be held Friday in Chicago. We send our condolences to the Johnson family during this difficult time.

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