January 24, 2022

Report: Historic Ebony and Jet Photo Archive to Be Auctioned Off to Pay Creditors

UPDATE July 26, 2019

Smithsonian Secretary Lonnie Bunch Weighs In on Legendary Photo Archive of African-American Life (via Smithsonian.com)

This archive, especially photographically, is the archive of record for black America from immediately after the Second World War probably until the 1970s or early ’80s,” says Smithsonian Secretary Lonnie Bunch. “Almost any story that has touched black America, whether it’s celebratory, whether it’s tragedy, that is material that we expect to be in there. So this is really an opportunity to understand a full range of the African-American experience.”


The partnership only came together last week, according to the New York Times’ Julie Bosman. Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation, read about the news of the pending auction on his phone while in Spain. Concerned about the fate of the photographs, he emailed Elizabeth Alexander, president of the Mellon Foundation, and asked what could be done. Lightning fast by corporate standards, the foundations came together with a plan.

Read the Complete Article

UPDATE July 26, 2019

From CBS This Morning

UPDATE July 25, 2019

Foundation Consortium Acquires Historic African American Photographic Archive (via Mellon Foundation)

A consortium of foundations—the Ford Foundation, The J. Paul Getty Trust, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation—today acquired the archive of Johnson Publishing Company (JPC), publisher of the iconic Ebony & Jet magazines. The acquisition is pending court approval and the closing of the sale.

The archive includes more than 4 million prints and negatives comprising the most significant collection of photographs cataloguing African American life in the 20th century.  The archive was acquired for $30 million as part of an auction of the assets of JPC in connection with its Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing and approved by the bankruptcy court.

The foundation consortium will donate the archives to the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, the Getty Research Institute, and other leading cultural institutions for the public benefit to ensure the broadest access for the general public and use by scholars, researchers, journalists, and other interested parties.

Read the Complete Announcement

Additional Coverage

UPDATE July 18, 2019

Ebony Photo Archives Auction Resumes Monday After Producing ‘Multiple Bidders’ But No Clear Winner (via Chicago Tribune)\

End Updates

From The USA Today:

The historic photo archive of Ebony and Jet is being sold by the magazines’ now-bankrupt former publisher Johnson Publishing Company. The auction, organized by Hilco Streambank, is scheduled for Wednesday in Chicago.

Richelle Kalnit, senior vice president at Hilco Streambank, called the collection, which also includes thousands of hours of video and music, “quite unmatched.”

“There’s no other source to be able to chronicle what this community has achieved since the civil rights movement, starting with that historic movement and the accomplishments all the way through to President Obama,” said Kalnit. “Nobody did this in the 1940s, nobody did this in the civil rights movement other than the Johnson Publishing Company.”


The collection includes photographs of Martin Luther King Jr., Sammy Davis Jr., Diana Ross, Nat “King” Cole, Muhammad Ali, Jackie Robinson, Prince and Stevie Wonder. There are also snapshots of everyday life with images depicting the black church, food and fashion.

Learn More, Read the Complete Article

See Also: View Selected Images via @JPCArchive on Instagram

See Also: Coverage from the Chicago Tribune and Wall St. Journal

Direct to Auction Announcement

About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.