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Eunice Walker Johnson (April 4, 1916 – January 3, 2010) was the wife of publisher John H. Johnson and an executive at Johnson Publishing Company.[1] Johnson was best-known as the founder and director of the Ebony Fashion Fair, which was started in the 1950s as a hospital fundraiser and became an annual fashion tour that highlighted fashion for African-American women that ran until a year before hear death.[2]

Born Eunice Walker on April 4, 1916, in Selma, Alabama, she graduated with a degree in sociology from Talladega College in 1938. She met her future husband, John H. Johnson, in 1940 while she was attending Loyola University Chicago and was married after she earned her master's degree the following year.[3]

Together with her husband, she established Negro Digest in 1942, a magazine styled after Reader's Digest. The rapid growth of their first publication encouraged them to create Ebony, a monthly designed to emulate Life and its style of boldly-photographed front covers. Johnson had been the one who suggested that the magazine be named for the dark wood.[3] By the time of her death, Ebony reached a readership of 1.25 million, while it's weekly companion Jet reached a circulation of 900,000.[3]

The Ebony Fashion Tour began as a fundraiser that she created in 1958 for a hospital in New Orleans. In its half century of existence, the tour visited 200 cities across the United States, Canada and the Caribbean, raising over $50 million for charity. The fashion tour was a pioneer in using African-American models on the runway and helped highlight the works of African-American designers. Building on her difficulties in finding cosmetics suited to the skin tones of her models, Johnson created Fashion Fair Cosmetics in 1973 as a line of makeup that would be sold in leading department stores.[3]

Johnson died of renal failure January 3, 2010, at the age of 93 at her home in Chicago. She was survived by Linda Johnson Rice, chairwoman and chief executive of Johnson Publishing, as well as by a granddaughter.[3]


  1. ^ Jensen, Trevor. "Eunice W. Johnson dies at 93; gave Ebony magazine its name", Los Angeles Times, January 5, 2010. Accessed January 9, 2010.
  2. ^ Faulkner, Leesha. "Eunice Walker Johnson remembered", Selma Times-Journal, January 6, 2010. Accessed January 9, 2010.
  3. ^ a b c d e Hevesi, Dennis. "Eunice Johnson Dies at 93; Gave Ebony Its Name", The New York Times, January 9, 2010. Accessed January 9, 2010.

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