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At 23, Linda Johnson Rice Became the Vice President of the Johnson Publishing Company

She rose to prominence at a young age. Linda Johnson Rice was appointed vice president and fashion coordinator of the Johnson Publishing Company (JPC) at the age of 23. She became the company’s president and chief operating officer in 1987, making her one of the country’s youngest publishing leaders.

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In addition, she was a member of first lady Hillary Clinton’s entourage to Nelson Mandela’s inauguration as South Africa’s first black president in 1994. When JPC decided to launch Ebony South Africa a year later, Rice paid Mandela a visit at his house. According to the Chicago Tribune, those were the good old days in Rice’s novels.

Rice’s favorite book is titled “Succeeding Against the Odds.” She was adopted by John and Eunice Johnson when she was three months old, and she never had to compete with any of her siblings for a place in her father’s company, but she did have to convince the publishing industry that she was capable and credible. She had a heritage to uphold for an organization founded by her father in 1942 to reflect the voice of the black community.

The Johnson Publishing Company, the largest Black-owned publishing company in the United States, created the Ebony and Jet magazines, which helped to change the narrative of Black America. Rice enrolled at Northwestern University’s J.L. Kellogg Graduate School, where she got an M.B.A. in management in 1987, to demonstrate that she was competent of leading the company, and JPC experienced its highest readership ever in 1970.

While several magazines were folding, Rice made certain that Ebony and Jet magazines ran smoothly. During the 2008 global financial crisis, she had to oversee the company’s affairs while advertisers cut their budgets drastically. It was decided to reinvest in the company by bringing in new talent. By 2014, she had begun to increase Ebony and Jet’s digital presence in order to attract and nurture a younger audience. At the time, and received over 1 million unique visits per month, and the publications were available on Kindle, Nook, and iPad.

She also devised novel methods for archiving 2,500 photos from the publisher’s archives. The audience was able to purchase and frame a piece of history by purchasing exceptional photos of Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, and other prominent figures such as James Brown and Lena Horne. Looking back, it is one of Rice’s proudest accomplishments in keeping the magazines afloat through difficult times.

But, as difficult as it was to confess, the most painful decision she ever had to make was to sell Ebony and Jet magazines in 2016. Given their historic history and ties to the black community, it was a difficult decision to keep them as they depleted the company’s and other affiliated family businesses’ coffers, such as Fashion Fair Cosmetics. It was a decision that gave her nightmares, but as much as she hoped the magazines’ finances would improve, she knew they were better off being controlled by other investors. In retrospect, she is glad that the journals are still black-owned and represent the ideals her father envisioned.

Over the previous 30 years of dedicated service, she has served on more than ten business boards by making the appropriate and difficult decisions. According to Washington Speakers Bureau, her leadership style has been recognized on the Chicago Sun-Times List of Chicago’s 100 Most Powerful Women and the Top 10 Women in Media, as well as Crain’s list of the 20 Most Powerful Women in Chicago.To many, she represents the tough and resilient leader who became “the first African-American CEO among the top five of the Black Enterprise 100s largest black-owned companies.”

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