Sepia magazine was one of a cluster of African American magazines whose photographs and stories celebrated the successes of black U.S. residents. Compared to Life magazine, Sepia featured blacks’ achievements – it originally was called “Negro Achievements” – but also was a vehicle for understanding race relations. Within its pages appeared columns by writer John Howard Griffin, a white man who darkened his skin and wrote about his treatment in the segregated South, that eventually became the best-selling book “Black Like Me.”
“In a sense, Ebony provided the African American community with optimism, while Sepia offered realism,” wrote scholar Mia Chandra Long in a comparison of the two magazines.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame featured a collection of images from Sepia’s photo archives spanning 1948 to 1983 that was a who’s who of black artistry: Ray Charles, Bob Marley, James Brown, Mahalia Jackson and Dizzy Gillespie.
“Sepia magazine was a vital voice in the African-American community for many decades,” said Howard Kramer, the curatorial director at the time of the 2009 exhibit at the hall of fame. “The knowledge and information it presented spoke much about its audience, and its audience cared about and loved music.”
See more information about black pictorial magazines from a joint exhibit of the National Museum of African American History and Culture and the University of Maryland’s Center for Art, Design and Visual Culture: http://bit.ly/1AdqSjE
Photo: Sepia, November 1959. Collection of Civil Rights Archive/CADVC-UMBC, Baltimore, Maryland, 2005.206