Jun 12, 2023 - News

Ebony magazine's test kitchen finds permanent home in D.C.

Orange and brown paisley walls, upper and lower ovens, stovetop and lime green range in Ebony Test Kitchen.

In the 1970s, the Ebony Test Kitchen was known for its ultramodern features and functionality. Photo courtesy of Landmarks Illinois

Chicago-based Ebony magazine's iconic, colorful test kitchen will soon become part of the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) in Washington, D.C.

Driving the news: Architectural preservation group Landmarks Illinois announced this month they're donating the kitchen to the museum's permanent collection.

Why it matters: Johnson Publishing put out the first issue of Ebony in 1945 "to provide positive images for Blacks in a world of negative images and non-images," according to its founder John H. Johnson.

  • Editors at Ebony and Johnson's Jet magazine, which launched in 1951, tested recipes in the kitchen for popular columns like "Date with a Dish" that celebrated Black American food.
  • "We didn't have the Food Network," Joanne Hyppolite from NMAAHC tells Axios. "You had to turn to a cookbook or you turn to the magazine."

What they're saying: The recipes "capture the national and global range and interest in Black foodways and embraces the diversity of Black foodways," Hyppolite says.

  • "I think the Ebony Test Kitchen illustrates the Johnson Publishing Company's ability to assume agency and control over Black culinary representation," she says.

Flashback: Columbia College acquired Johnson's Chicago headquarters, at 820 S. Michigan Ave., in 2011, selling it to a developer in 2017.

Fun fact: General Electric advertised in the magazines and provided the kitchen's appliances, including a trash compactor and a microwave oven in 1972!

What's next: Hyppolite says the kitchen is the third-largest object the museum has acquired, so there are still details to figure out before the public can view it. But she says displaying it at the museum is important.


Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Chicago.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Chicago stories

No stories could be found


Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Chicago.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more