Perhaps, but many of the issues of race and discrimination that Ebony has addressed in the last six decades still exist, from soaring African-American unemployment rates to a widening wealth chasm between blacks and whites. Although there are younger, Internet-savvy voices emerging to carry on the fight, these newcomers have not yet passed the test of time. It would be a wasteful shame to lose Ebony’s experience and hard-earned authority. “There is a role for Ebony still to play, beyond sentimental, particularly in the age of Obama,’’ Monroe says. “I think there is a dangerously erroneous perception that now that Obama has reached the mountaintop, issues of race are no longer important. Whether it is health care, education, or housing, there are still huge gaps and a lot of work to do. To look at these problems from an African-American perspective is more important than ever.’’

Every month, Johnson Publishing Company puts the covers of its magazines in the huge window of its lobby, a little old-school advertising. The other evening, as darkness fell over Chicago and a cold wind blew down South Michigan Avenue, I stood in front of JPC’s building, peering through the window at four large photographs positioned there to face the street. One was a recent cover of Jet, featuring a smiling Michelle Obama. “Her Power of Influence,’’ the headline read. Next to her was the February Ebony cover promising, among other features, “Love Stories Revealed: How 8 Couples Keep It Going,’’ and “Demystifying Islam.’’

A few inches from the giant reproductions was a similar-sized photograph of John H. Johnson, the man who started it all. His photograph was placed in the window after he died. Now a portrait of his wife, Eunice, has been added.

I paid my respects to the Johnson parents but realized I’m not ready to say goodbye to their dream. I’m pulling hard for Ebony, the dowager, to find that fountain of youth. Not tomorrow, but today. I hear everything anyone could ever need or want can be found on the Internet.

 

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Don Terry is a 2009-2010 Encore Fellow at CJR. He has worked at the Chicago Defender, the Chicago Tribune, the St. Paul Pioneer Press, the St. Paul Dispatch, and The New York Times, where he was part of the team that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2001 for the series "How Race is Lived in America."