Monday, May 10, 2010

Lena Horne 1917-2010. African American Magazines

The death yesterday of the great songstress Lena Horne reminded me of a rare magazine I acquired a few years ago, the first issue, April 1946, of the African-American general interest monthly Our World.
The word "Our" in the title of magazines issues in the forties and fifties almost always was used for those of interest to the African-American community. All of these magazines (all first issues pictured) were of low circulation and most often were not saved. Some are exceedingly scarce like this one:

Others are rare but show up on occasion like these:
Even the iconic magazines of the Johnson publishing empire, Jet, Ebony and Negro Digest are by no means abundant.

The "separate but equal" dictum spurred an entire spectrum of specialty magazines, equivalent (and sometimes quite so in design as well) to Time or Life. The sports equivalent is pictured above, edited by Jackie Robinson. Even individual issues of many titles in this genre are very hard to find.

The ninety-two years of Lena Horne's life encompassed an era of remarkable change- from Jim Crow to the White House, from apartheid to Nelson Mandela. We've come a long way but there's still plenty of room for improvement.
One of the favorites in my collection is this exquisitely rare first issue featuring the multi-talented and often wrongly persecuted Paul Robeson. Had he been born thirty years later and not encountered the "stormy weather" that Ms. Horne sang of, his star would shine far brighter than it does today.

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