Congressman Bobby Rush

Representing the 1st District of Illinois

Rush Introduces Bill to Honor John H. Johnson with the Congressional Gold Medal

Feb 2, 2012
Press Release

CONTACT: Renee Ferguson
(773) 224-6500 ofc.; (202) 674-0891 mobile

WASHINGTON – Congressman Bobby L. Rush (D-IL) introduced a bill to grant the congressional gold medal to African-American publishing icon John H. Johnson.  The Congressional Gold Medal is the highest civilian honor bestowed by the United States Congress.  Johnson, who died in 2005, was the founder and publisher of Ebony and Jet Magazines and was the first African American listed among the Forbes 400 Richest Americans.

Johnson’s first Magazine, Negro Digest, was published in 1942 in Chicago.  It was the predecessor to Ebony and featured African-American history, literature, arts and culture.  By showing and telling the accomplishments of African-Americans, Johnson sent a message to the world that the descendants of slaves had accomplished great things in America, even in the face of legalized discrimination and de-facto segregation.  Speaking of Johnson, Congressman Rush said

"John H. Johnson understood the power of positive imagery on the minds of oppressed people.  He knew that real progress and real freedom would begin with the notion of what could actually be achieved.  His genius was in realizing that the individual stories of success and prosperity told in Ebony and Jet would uplift, inspire and affirm the masses of his people in ways that the larger society refused to do.  John H. Johnson gave voice to our aspirations and showed in living color what we could and would become."

The first Congressional Gold Medal was awarded to then-General George Washington during the Revolutionary War in 1776.  Other recipients include Civil Rights leaders Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Roy Wilkins and Rosa Parks.  The list includes inventors, Thomas Edison and the Wright Brothers, poet Robert Frost and entertainer Bob Hope.