May 7, 2014
Jet magazine

The May 17, 1973, issue of Jet magazine. (Newseum collection)

End of an Era: Jet Magazine Goes Digital

In a sign of the economic and digital times, Johnson Publishing Company announced May 7 that Jet magazine is moving from print to online starting in June. A "best of Jet" print issue will be published annually.

The pioneering black newsweekly that was founded in 1951 was once so popular in the black community that it was called the "Negro bible" by comedian Redd Foxx. Like its sister publication Ebony, which began publishing in 1945, Jet highlighted the achievements of African Americans. Two of its most sought-out features were "Picture of the Week" and "Beauty of the Week."

The publication was also a force in the civil rights movement. Jet reporters and photographers were in the forefront in the South covering school desegregation, the Montgomery bus boycott, the Freedom Rides, and the murder of Emmett Till.

In 1955, Jet published the only photos of the mutilated body of Till lying in his casket. The 14-year-old Chicago teenager was brutally beaten to death by white racists who claimed he had whistled at a white woman. Till's body was dumped in the Tallahatchie River. The photos sparked national outrage and drew more of the mainstream media to the South to cover civil rights.

In 2012, recognizing the shift in cultural attitudes about same-sex marriage, Jet published its first wedding announcement featuring a male couple.

On May 16, 2014, the Newseum, in partnership with the Smithsonian, opens its newest exhibit, "One Nation With News for All," which tells the dramatic story of how immigrants and minorities used the power of the press to fight for their rights and shape the American experience.

The original copy of Jet that covers Till's funeral will be one of the artifacts on display. "News for All" will run through Jan. 4, 2015.

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