The Sepia Magazine Photograph Archive is the retired photographic files of Sepia, its related magazines and one newspaper The World Messenger, Negro Achievements, Bronze Thrills, Sepia Record, Hep, Jive, Soul Teen, Soul Confessions and In Sepia Dallas respectively.
This group of Black-oriented popular magazines began in 1945 with the establishment of The World Messenger by Horace J. Blackwell, an African- American minister. The magazine's name changed to Negro Achievements in 1948 to better reflect its focus on the positive contributions of Black Americans in the continuing struggle for racial equality.
After Mr. Blackwell's death in 1949, his widow sold the publication to George T. Levitan, a successful local businessman, becoming the company's first white owner. Negro Achievements was renamed briefly as Bronze Thrills and finally to Sepia, a general interest magazine with a heavy reliance upon photographs.
The mostly untrained staff was comprised of cooks, maids, and local blue-collar labor. Sepia’s “silent partner”, Benjamin Bernstein, trained fledgling black writers and was critical of finding skilled photographers to support his style and vision for the magazine to cater to a sophisticated Black audience. Along with some of the nation’s acclaimed photographers, Sepia’s most prominent photographer was Fort Worth-based photographer Calvin Littlejohn (inset).
In 1961, John Howard Griffin’s critically acclaimed non-fiction book Black Like Me first appeared in Sepia as a series of articles. As a result, the magazine’s notoriety and popularity quickly rose internationally.
After Mr. Levitan's death in 1976, the magazine changed ownership twice before quietly and abruptly ceasing publication in 1983 after relocating to California.
Through its writings and photography, Sepia carefully, thoughtfully, and purposefully documented American popular culture and Black history.
A small but very significant group of images, salvaged from water-logged and neglected boxes, were selected for an exhibit at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2009.
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