Desiree Rogers, the C.E.O. of Johnson Publishing, which owns the magazines Ebony and Jet, and Fashion Fair, a makeup line aimed at women of color, can see many sights from her 21st-floor corner office across from Millennium Park. “This is a good view of Chicago,” Ms. Rogers told a recent visitor, gesturing at a panorama of Lake Michigan, Grant Park, Navy Pier, the Adler Planetarium and Soldier Field. But the sight that holds the most personal meaning for Ms. Rogers may be a portrait by Robin Harper just above her purple retro sofa, depicting the boxer Jack Johnson with a soft, wounded expression.
The portrait, Ms. Rogers said, reminded her of looking at pictures of Muhammad Ali in the pages of Ebony with her grandfather as a little girl growing up in New Orleans. “My grandfather really liked fighters,” she said. As they flipped through the magazines, she said, he’d tell her: “I hope you’re great. And I hope one day you’ll be in those pages.”
Ms. Rogers, 53, has been in the pages of Ebony many times since her first appearance in April 1989 in a photo from George H. W. Bush’s inauguration. Her name now sits atop the magazine’s masthead, just below that of her best friend, Linda Johnson Rice, chairwoman of the company.
Ms. Johnson Rice’s father, the late John H. Johnson, founded Johnson Publishing in 1942 with a $500 loan he secured against his mother’s furniture when he was 24. Since then, Ebony (the name was the suggestion of Ms. Johnson Rice’s mother, Eunice Johnson) has gone on to become one of the most recognizable African-American publications in the world. The Harper image was part of the huge art collection of Mr. and Mrs. Johnson (no relation to the boxer), and it graced the cover of the magazine in March 1978.