Iconic Ebony Covers

November 14, 2011  |  
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Sixty six years ago, publisher John H. Johnson, launched the Ebony Magazine, a monthly lifestyle publication that focused on issues and stars of particular importance to the black community. Everyone from “Hollywood to Harlem” as the magazine toted. The aim of the magazine was to portray a generally positive, uplifting message about accomplishments in the black community. Check out how the magazine has evolved over the past six decades.

November, 1945 You may find it hard to believe but the first issue of Ebony Magazine didn’t have a smiling star splashed across the cover. Instead the magazine sought to draw attention to the issue of race relations by featuring seven boys, six of them white on the cover of the November issue. This first issue, in 1945 sold out with 25,000 copies. The magazine would reach its peak circulation in 1997 at 2 million.

September, 1947 In 1947, Jackie Robinson appeared on the cover with his wife and baby, presenting the ideal image of the American dream…in chocolate.

July, 1952 Similar to its sister publication, JET, which is six years younger, this magazine explored the issue of black adoption, nearly twenty years before this same problem made the cover of the weekly digest.

January, 1967 This issue of the monthly, featured Nichlle Nichols. Today we’ve come to expect at least a black face or two in our nightly television lineup. But in 1967, this was less likely, which is why Nichols’ role as Uhura was particularly impactful at the time, so much so that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. encouraged her to stick with it after she planned on quitting  after the first season.

December 1974 The ’70s were a great decade for music and if one family stood out above the rest, it was the particularly large and especially talented Jackson family. There are very few pictures of all eleven of them together.

June, 1976 It’s clear that Pam Grier was a sex symbol in the ’70s starring in nineteen roles during that decade alone. In total Grier has 95 credits on her resume. Any woman with a career span this long is clearly more than just a piece of eye candy. She’s gotta be smart too.

May, 1980 As confident and glamorous as Lena Horne appeared on television, it’s hard to believe she endured a childhood that was less than nurturing. She expounded upon this and much more in her interview with the magazine in 1980. You can read it, in its entirety, here.

May, 1982 Before Beyoncé and Jennifer Hudson, the original Dreamgirls, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Loretta Devine and Deborah Burrell graced the cover of this issue.

December, 1983 In 1983, Vanessa won the title of Miss America. Naturally she was shoe-in for the cover of the magazine. Not too long after she’d received the crown, it was taken away when nude photos of Williams were released. But by that time she was already making moves, solidifying herself as a triple threat in the entertainment industry.

September, 1990 Spike was the man when it came to Black entertainment in the ’90s. Not only was he producing films that entertained us and caused us to think, for many of us he put us on Denzel. Gotta thank him for that.

April, 2007 It’s only fitting that two conscious artists from different generations come together for this “generations of cool” cover. It’s too precious and I love the fact that both Common and Harry are sporting shiny domes.

December, 2007 Maybe it was just the people I happened to be around at the time, but for some reason this cover, featuring the King of Pop, hair laying luxuriously, caused major discussion. Perhaps, it was the fact we hadn’t seen him on a magazine cover in a good while. Unfortunately, Jackson’s next Ebony cover wouldn’t come until after his death in 2009.

August, 2008 2008 was a good year for America when we elected the country’s first African American president, Barack Obama. While millions of people were drawn to his charisma and public speaking abilities, Ebony recognized that Obama, was in a word: cool. Nearly, four years later, we have to agree.

February, 2009 Yeah, this is two Obama covers in a row. But I couldn’t leave this sappy sweet cover off the list. Not only does it accurately illustrate the love these two clearly share, it also features our friend in our head, Michelle. She graced her own Ebony cover, where she looked stunning, but I prefer this one. So here it is.

July, 2010 You know the purple one is not a huge fan of the press. So it was quite amazing when Ebony scored an exclusive interview with the rock star. It wasn’t his first appearance on the magazine. He was also featured on the cover in 1997, when he was “the artist.”

The pictures featured in this list are just a small sampling off all the covers of this legendary magazine. We celebrate what Ebony has done already and look forward to what the magazine will do in the future.

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