On this date in 1947, we celebrate the debut of Sepia magazine. This was a Black-owned photo and journalistic magazine similar to Life magazine.
Published in Fort Worth, TX, it featured articles based on the achievements of African Americans. The magazine, which made its debut under the name Negro Achievements, often wrote of the obstacles facing Blacks, from lynching and Ku Klux Klan marauding in its earlier publications to the later rise in violence among Blacks.
Sepia focused on various aspects of African American culture, including churches, civil rights, and education, from different viewpoints. With the objective of fostering leadership, the magazine also published articles on the development of Black institutions, including colleges and universities.
Sepia, a photojournalistic magazine styled like Look and sometimes compared to Ebony, featured articles based primarily on the achievements of African Americans. It was published in Fort Worth, Texas by Good Publishing Company (aka Sepia Publishing), owned and operated by George Levitan, who was not black himself. Levitan also published Hep, Jive and Bronze Thrills.
Adelle Jackson was the editorial director of Sepia, which debuted in 1947 under the name Negro Achievements. It focused on various aspects of African American culture, including churches, civil rights and education. With the goal of fostering leadership, It published serious articles on the development of black institutions, including colleges and universities.
The publication often exposed the obstacles facing blacks, from lynching and Ku Klux Klan operations in its earlier publications to the later rise in violence among blacks. Levitan financed John Howard Griffin’s investigative journalism book, “Black Like Me,” which was first serialized in Sepia. In Black Like Me, Griffin described Levitan and Sepia:
A large, middle-aged man, he long ago won my admiration by offering equal job opportunities to members of any race, choosing according to their qualifications and future potentialities. With an on-the-job training program, he has made Sepia a model, edited, printed and distributed from the million-dollar Fort Worth plan
After Levitan’s death, the magazine was continued by publisher Beatrice Pringle. It had a circulation of approximately 160,000 in 1983, when it was discontinued. The African American Museum in Dallas, Texas has the picture files of Sepia in its archives. These archives were mined for a 2009 exhibition at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Opening January 19, 2009, the exhibition, The Sepia Magazine Photo Archive – 1948-1983: 35 Years of the African-American Experience in Music ran until April 12, 2009 in the Museum’s Ahmet M. Ertegun Main Exhibit Hall’s Circular Gallery. The Sepia exhibition displayed more than 40 images originally in the magazine during its 35 years of publication – some not seen since their original printing – of African-American musical figures, including James Brown, Ruth Brown, Ray Charles, Mahalia Jackson, Bob Marley, Jackie Wilson, Erroll Garner and Dizzy Gillespie. Howard Kramer, curatorial director of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, commented, “Sepia magazine was a vital voice in the African-American community for many decades. The knowledge and information it presented spoke much about its audience, and its audience cared about and loved music.”
Sepia had a circulation of approximately 160,000 in 1983, when its publisher was Beatrice Pringle. In the early 1990s, it was not listed in reference sources about United States magazines. Sepia Magazine was also owned and published by George Levitan (who was not himself Black) for many years, including during the time that the research was being done for the investigative journalism book “Black Like Me,” by Howard Griffin, published in 1961. It was Levitan’s idea for an article which became the book. The African American Museum in Dallas, has the picture files of Sepia Magazine in its archives