Chicago History Museum Looks at Johnson Family’s Enduring Legacy

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Linda Johnson Rice to talk about Ebony Fashion Fair and its inspiration on American culture.

In the city of big shoulders, few words are more Chicago than Ebony, Jet and the Johnsons. The Chicago History Museum presents “In Conversation with Linda Johnson Rice,” an intimate discussion with the chairman and CEO of Johnson Publishing Company about her family’s enduring legacy and its influence on American culture.

Johnson Rice will be interviewed by journalist Laura Washington as part of the museum’s “Chicago Treasures” series on November 21 at 7 p.m. A private cocktail reception with Johnson Rice for Museum members precedes the public program.

Currently, the Chicago History Museum is home to the groundbreaking exhibition Inspiring Beauty: 50 Years of the Ebony Fashion Fair, which runs through January 5, 2014. The exhibit tells the story of the long-running charity fashion show through 67 garments that represent the vision of Eunice Walker Johnson, Fashion Fair’s producer and director. Throughout her decades-long career, Walker Johnson purchased one-of-a kind ensembles from top fashion houses around the world and shared them with eager audiences around the nation. Inspiring Beauty celebrates the indelible impression the traveling show made on the fashion industry and how it transformed the lives of the women and men attending the show.

As a young woman, Johnson Rice traveled with her mother around the world – first, as an observer and eventually to help select and buy the clothes. The Ebony Fashion Fair traveled nine months out of the year showcasing the best in international fashion to sold-out venues across the United States, Canada and the Caribbean.

The exhibit features fashions from famed designers Emanuel Ungaro, Christian Dior, Karl Lagerfeld, Yves Saint Laurent, Oscar de la Renta and Patrick Kelly. The custom-made mannequins have received nearly as much attention as the fashions. Like Fashion Fair models, they represent the various hues of brown that the traveling show celebrated on runways across the nation.

“Every Chicagoan should know the story of the Ebony Fashion Fair and Johnson Publishing Company,” said Inspiring Beauty curator Joy Bivins. “The beauty and innovation exemplified by the annual fashion fantasy was awe inspiring and helped further the company’s vision. Ms. Johnson Rice’s insight into her family’s history and business will surely thrill those who love the show, the magazines and Chicago history.”

Tickets for “In Conversation” are $18 to the general public and $12 for museum members, who can access the VIP reception for an additional $10 donation. To purchase tickets, go to

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Robin Beaman
Beaman Incorporated
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Frances Hathcock
Chicago History Museum
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