Served as the second home of Johnson Publishing Company between 1943 and 1945. Publisher John H. Johnson made the decision to move out of the Supreme Life building at 3501 South Parkway after Negro Digest became a publishing success.
5619 South State Street, circa 1943. Image courtesy of Ebony magazine
Although his use of an office in the Supreme Life Building had proved convenient during the formation of Negro Digest, Johnson soon desired a space of his own. In the autumn of 1943 Johnson vacated the offices in the Supreme Life Building to 5619 South State Street. This small, store-front office was purchased for $4,000, and became the public face of Johnson's growing publishing enterprise.
However, editor Ben Burns suggested that while the magazine's physical address may have changed, its editorial headquarters remained for all intents and purposes his home address at 3725 South Lake Park Avenue. If true, this statement was indicative of the complex position Burns held within Negro Digest, and subsequently Ebony following its publication in 1945. Just as the dominant role of a white editor at a digest for a black audience became increasingly problematic, so too was this tension represented in the contrast between Negro Digest's official home on South State Street, and Burns' personal residence:
"Esther and I had decided to move closer to the black community, even though Lake Park Avenue then was lily-white, blanketed by a restrictive covenant that mandated Cottage Grove Avenue, just two blocks away, as the arbitrary frontier between black and white neighborhoods."
5619 South State Street soon became to cramped for the rapidly expanding company, and Johnson would purchase offices at 5125 South Calumet Avenue, before making the highly publicised move to 1820 South Michigan Avenue at the end of the 1940s. The building had survived but remains vacant - one of the few sites on the State Street side of the block between East 56th Street and East 57th Street.
5619 South State Street, circa 2015. Image courtesy of Google Maps
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