From chronicling the struggles of the civil rights movement to sponsoring a fashion caravan that stopped in big cities and small towns across the country, Ebony has proven to be much more than just a magazine for African Americans during its more than six decades of publication.
In a Washington ballroom filled with crystal, sterling silver and glamour Saturday night, black-and-white images from the civil rights struggles of the 1960s were reminders of the magazine’s long and influential journey.
“Ebony has been more than a magazine, it is a movement,” Linda Johnson Rice said at the Links Inc.’s 65th anniversary gala. Rice, chairman of her late father’s Johnson Publishing, received the Links Medal, for a publication that since 1945 has covered “the seminal moments” in the life of black America.
The presentation highlighted a weekend of events that included the dedication of a newly renovated Washington headquarters for the Links, a national organization for professional African American women. Founded by two women in Philadelphia in 1946, the group aims to offset the sting of segregation through education and the arts.
The Links has worked across the spectrum. At one point the group commended Josephine Baker for refusing to sing in Philadelphia because black stage hands were not being employed in the 1940s. And it has raised millions of dollars. The Links has grown from a small circle of friends into a national organization with 274 chapters.
“This has been a historic moment for our organization as we honor our past,” said Margot James Copeland, the organization’s president. “We have challenges in our community, but you can count on the Links to be there to fill the gap, to be there for our people in health, in education and for our young people across the board.”
During the gala, Rice reminded the women of their partnership with Ebony, which has been about “informing, empowering and enriching lives.” She specifically talked about 50 years of fashion shows that were organized by her late mother, Eunice Johnson, and featured models who appeared in the magazine.
“I am struck by the memories of all of the fantastic Links ladies who worked so hard to host the Ebony Fashion Fair shows,” Rice said as she looked across a room of professional women at the $500-a-plate dinner.
Former White House social secretary Desiree Rogers, who is now chief executive of Johnson Publishing, expressed excitement about leading Ebony and Jet magazine into a new age of communication with products such as EbonyJet Online.
“We are going to present content to people however they want to receive it,” Rogers said. “If they want it on their iPad or if they want to buy it in print, we just want people to be involved.”