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Ebony Magazine's September 1963 Issue Was Great!


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During a recent "vacation" I took to reading old issues of Ebony Magazine.  I have a collection of about 30 issues from the 50's and 60's.  The images below are from the September 1963 issue.  I found the magazine simply fascinating.  It can be purchased on Amazon (not for sale by me) and Google has made this issue available online,


Interestingly, I see no indication that Ebony has provided an online archive on their website.  I still find it amazing, annoying even, that Google profits from Ebony's content while Ebony loses out on traffic and associated revenue.  Of course, I've been critical of Ebony's online presence in the past, but it still irks me when they blow opportunities by failing to take advantage of their wealth of information.


 Run a Google search on Ebony Magazine September 1963, as see how many pages deep you have to go before you even see a link to Ebony Magazine's website.


The quality of writing was superb for a magazine marketed to a Black mass audience.  The whole idea that these types of articles (long form, written above a 8th grade reading level, not celebrity or scandal  driven) don't appeal to Black readers in 2014 does not hold water--particularly with so many more Black people holding college degrees in 2014 compared to 1963. 


The article depicted below, "Negro in Literature Today" was written by John A. Williams.  Williams offered a terrific, now historical, snapshot about the best Black writers in 1963.  Most of the authors cited are profiled here on AALBC.com, but there were a couple of writers I was unfamiliar with, but rest assure I will profile them here on AALBC.com shortly.


I can't image Ebony or any mainstream magazine publishing a piece like this today.


While the contest was the advertised products often left a lot to be desired. Advertisements for cigarettes and hard liquor dominated.  I was also surprised to see ad for skin lightening creams.  The dichotomy between the advertisements and the content was much more stark back then. 


Cynique in some ways I envy your generation.  Don't get me wrong you can keep the overt racism and segregation you had to deal with, but I think the Black community was better served by their institutions (publications, churches, civil right organizations, HBCU's, etc).  What do you think?


Ebony Magazine September 1963Ebony Magazine September 1963


Ebony Magazine 1963

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Unfortunately, Troy, it was during my generation that black resources became under utilized because the drive for integration was on and this meant forsaking what was “all-black” while eagerly embarking on incursions into the white world that was opening up for us. But there was one exception back then. During the infancy of TV and the absence of the Internet, the the print media was the home of literary and intellectual discussion. When it came to a black dialogue on these subjects a showcase was provided by a "Negro" counterpart of LIFE magazine that was relatively new to the field. This upstart publication was Ebony and it quickly became the flagship for black communication, providing a voice for all segments of the African American population which included the successors to the Harlem Renaissance crowd who always found an outlet for their output on the pages of Ebony.


So Ebony has, indeed, earned its place among the paragons and pioneers of black journalism. Also worthy of note, is that the book by one of its editors, Lerone Bennett, entitled “Before the Mayflower” is a definitive study on slavery still used as a reference in many classrooms. And to this day, appearing on the cover of Ebony remains an honor and a privilege.


As you discovered, Troy, copies of Ebony down through the years provide a pictorial as well as editorial record of black life in America. There was one particular series Ebony ran entitled “The White Problem in America“, a groundbreaking analysis of race that really dispelled many long held assumptions. Do you happen to have a copy of this issue?


Incidentally, having been an inveterate contributor to the “letters-to-the-editor” feature of newspapers and magazines, I am proud to say that Ebony always printed letters I wrote to them back in the day.

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Of course they printed your letters Cynique--you are a talented writer with an opinion and the willingness to express it.  I'd imagine now, given your experience, you are even better with much more to say...  In fact I found your old letters pretty easily.


Your perspective above is truly valuable as your first hand experience with Ebony magazine, in its heyday, is one we will be loosing very shortly.  What was the sentiment surrounding all the liquor and cigarette ads.  I guess no one knew cigarettes were poison. 


I'm old enough to remember when having a drink in one hand and a square in the other was the epitome of cool!  Cap that off with being able to bed a bunch of honeys and you were the man!  Like Billy Dee and Colt 45 it work every time!  It is really sad those were our role models and going to school was for suckers.


I think in our anxiousness to enter the white world were forgot who we were...then again we really really knew who we were did we?




Yes I was aware of Lerome Bennet's role.  I had the pleasure of meeting him about a decade ago and I have an autographed copy of Before the Mayflower.  I believe he wrote the cover story of this issue.


I may have this issue.  Google definitely has (I really do hope Ebony is getting a piece of this action.



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Liquor and cigarette ads were taken in stride.  Drinking and smoking were considered cool, and mostly everybody did it, including me. There actually used to be ads claiming 1 out of every 3 doctors preferred Camel cigarettes.  Famous athletes also endorsed cigarette brands.  But, even back before the "black is beautiful" phase appeared,  the ads for skin lighteners didn't meet with a lot of approval.  Hair products alternated between hair straighteners and Afro enhancers as the popularity of each style rose and fell down through the years. Fads and fashions came and went, but the quest to exude sex appeal never vanished. When Musk oil first came out, it was all the rage because it really did turn men on.  Later, wearing cologne became acceptable among guys and the sale of different brands really took off. Wearing earrings also grew in popularity among men about this time.


Yes, back then Blacks were anxious to integrate the white landscape but, they were not entirely compromised.  Along the way, the black mystique ended up capitvating white people who came to be impressed with the inimitable hipness and style of soul brothas and sistas.    

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My how times have changed:



In terms of not being compromised.  Sure there were some that not compromised.  But it seems to me the trend since integration has led to the most successful of us selling out and doing whatever it takes to make the most money we can regardless of what it does to our people.  They like ghetto pimps, drug dealers and charismatic preachers manage to exploit a community while being revered at the same time.


The most financially successful are the gangsters whether they are on Wall Street or "da street," we worship money, or people with it, over everything else.  Which is why tobacco companies used doctors and athletes to sell cigarettes at a time they knew they were lethal.  Wait until marijuana is legalized...


Today the poorest among us are the most likely to smoke.  In NYC with cigarettes costing $13 a pack, 1 out of 5 people below the poverty line still smokes.  In Vicksburg MS cigarette smoking is on the rise. 


The more things change the more they stay the same.

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Everything has the potential to be lethal nowadays.  Look at how all the automakers are constantly recalling models because they have defective parts that can and do cause fatal accidents, not to mention the danger involved in just driving a car in heavy traffic. Look at all the innocent bystanders killed by stray bullets, sometimes while they are in the privacy of their homes. Hospitals are actually hazardous to your health because they are hotbeds of air-born infections the many surgical and critically ill patients end up dying from rather than what it is they are being treated for.  Drugs and alcohol continue to take their toll and STDs are rampant with new strains becoming resistant to anti-biotics, all of these afflictions making victims susceptible to deadly outcomes. Schools and workplaces and public venues can be targeted by dysfunctional misfits of society who spray them with the gunfire that results in mass murder.  Airplanes can be shot down or hijacked at any time.  The food we eat is dusted with noxious insecticides and fortified with harmful chemicals. The air we breathe is polluted. I could go on and on.  What we think is safe, may not be.  


Poor black people smoke because they are stressed out.  Death stalks poverty and racism.      

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Yes Cynique, life itself is lethal...


...and sure poor Black people smoke and engage in a variety of ill advised behaviors due to stress.


It does not have to be that way, but I guess there is too much profit in it to be any other way.

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LOL.  "It does not have to be that way", huh?  No it wouldn't have to be that way if Jesus would listen to the prayers of his faithful black flock. :(


Meanwhile, in "America, The Promised Land", free enterprise is efficiently operating, doing what Capitalism was established to do; exemplify the "greed is good" mantra.  So, the rich get richer and everybody else is left to ponder how Democracy turned into a "life is not fair" proposition. :huh:

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@Troy you argue that black people forgot or lost sight of ourselves with the push to integrate as equals to whites, but who was ourselves? Your words suggest a unity or communal organization that did not exist. Remember, Frederick douglass/nat turner/web dubois/booker t washington were in each others lifetime; they did not have similar minds about various questions to the black individual or community. Do most black people want better for black people? yes. But the definition of what that means has never been agreed upon in our community. Sequentially, what you say was a mistake was what many black people wanted. Not all black people, not me, not you or cynique, but in a population of tens of millions, many. 

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Hi @richardmurray

1 hour ago, richardmurray said:

Your words suggest a unity or communal organization that did not exist. 


The disagreement between the likes of  Frederick douglass/nat turner/web dubois/booker t washington was between individuals.  I'm talking about a people.


There certainly was greater unity in the past than there was today.  The unity was required for our very survival.  Here in Oklahoma I'm aware of many thriving Black towns that existed because white folks refused to let us live in their communities.


That does not mean everyone in those communities agreed on everything -- that would be impossible.  N=They however agreed on enough to create wealth in the face of constant existential threats.


Today it is questionable if we can generate enough unity to maintain a magazine that provided the agency to speaks to our needs and tell out own stories ... and that is sad.


So yes I look to the past the lament the lack of solidarity that we had in the past. 

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@Troy each one of those men had many black people who aligned to their philosophy.  Is that true or not? If it is not true, then as you say, their philosophical variance is merely individual. If true, then it is a communal issue. 


Unity is not organization, they are not the same thing. In the comments sections in this forum most black people , you+ me+ mzuri+cynique, all are unified. we all support this black owned website, but are we organized? no. The key here is the difference between unity or organization. If unity is organization to you then you are correct. 


The word agree means to like. The word accept is to take something, whether you like it or not. For this phase in my response. I will use the word accept , in place of your word agreement. Why? Agreement isn't about organization, a thing of the body. Organization is about acceptance. When the irish mob relented to the italian mob in NYC, it wasn't agreed it was accepted. Getting all in a group to like a thing is near impossible. But getting all in a group to accept a thing is mandatory if it is to function positively. To your point, black people whether we liked it or not accepted, the situation under white power. Thus we collated into towns and , proving my point, the second white people allowed blacks in their towns, the exodus of many blacks from our towns. Those blacks never liked or agreed to living side other black people, but they accepted it, under white power. But a strong organization isn't when the body is formed under pressure from outside but when it is formed from balance within, ala the irish mob and italian mob in NYC. 


And that leads to my point. You question if enough unity exists. I know enough unity exists. Most black people want better for black people, ala this website's mere existence. But unity is not organization. And that was why I said the better stratagem for Ebony is to focus on fiscally wealthy blacks, all throughout humanity. Yes, most black people, including me and I think you, are not part of the fiscally wealthy black group. But, that group's members have a lot in common. All are fiscally wealthy, thus absent the difficulties being fiscally poor brings. Most, over 90%, have a positive relationship to some whites. Now they do not all speak english, are not all african, but the Ebony magazine can bridge those bounds.  My original comment suggested ebony can succeed. But not by catering to the entire village, it must cater to a tribe in it. And why? cause the village in the usa or beyond it is not organized. And never was. 


Fair enough, we had a solidarity in the past, but that was under white duress. The future goal, is to see what kind of solidarity we can make without pregnant black women being hanged, without black children being electrocuted for living, without formerly enslaved illiterate black men signing their lives away for bread, without black towns at the mercy of the white towns next to them. Black people being forced side other black people cause all of them are afriad of whites is a solid thing, but I rather black people want to be side other black people cause we want to be. And we have yet to prove that, in the usa at least. 

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