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The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Timeless photography teaches business

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By Angel Oviedo and Linda Puga

Azusa Pacific University associate professor Mia Anderson discusses the triumphs and failures of Sepia magazine during a series of events Feb. 26 on TR Campus. Brook Baldwin/The Collegian

Sepia, a defunct, forgotten magazine started in Fort Worth that covered a great part of the civil rights movement made a reappearance Feb. 26.

Azusa Pacific University associate professor Mia Anderson came to TR Campus to host the African American Life through the Sepia Lens series. She discussed the content and business side of Sepia Magazine which circulated from 1947 to 1983. 

“She is a proponent of cultural competence and a student of diversity,” TR student activities coordinator Kelsey Bratcher said. 

Anderson began researching the magazine 10 years ago and found that it had a long history dating back before Ebony magazine.

Sepia was frequently compared to Ebony magazine, which was its main, more successful competitor. 

“It was basically Ebony before Ebony,” Bratcher said.

The magazine mostly focused on working-class African Americans’ successes and triumphs while also addressing the brutal hardships and battles of the civil rights movement. 

Anderson said she was first introduced to Sepia magazine after she was required to do content analysis research on an episode of the sitcom “Good Times,” which studies the portrayal of African Americans in the media. 

She first caught a glimpse of the mysterious magazine when Thelma, one of the show’s main characters, was reading it.

“I paused my television, got as close as I could and said, ‘What is this magazine that I’ve never heard of?’” Anderson said. “My family grew up on Ebony and Jet for most of my life, and I had never heard of Sepia.”

The magazine, then named Negro Achievements, was started in Fort Worth by Horace J. Blackwell, an African American entrepreneur. The magazine was purchased two years later by George Levitan, a white Jewish male, after Blackwell died. 

Levitan later changed the name of the magazine to Sepia, which was headquartered on the city’s east side.   

Anderson attributed several things to Sepia’s eventual demise. The biggest one was the death of George Levitan in 1976. With his death, funds for the magazine started drying up. 

“It’s no secret businesses fail,” Anderson said, acknowledging the ways most print businesses tend to go bankrupt, including the lack of a clear identity and experience in journalism, lapses in editorial judgment and fierce competition.

Levitan did not offer subscriptions for the magazine as its competitors did, she said. She also pointed out that the magazine didn’t have a clear identity, due to the name changes it went through. 

The lack of experienced journalists led to a lapse in editorial judgment, sometimes involving controversial subjects. The nail in the coffin was the fierce competition by Ebony and Jet magazine. 

“How can you compete with Ebony without subscriptions?” Anderson said. She mentioned that as time goes on, companies today face the failure of creating a sense of trust with the public.

“I do remember the magazine being at a couple of barbershops when I was a kid,” said South and NE student Albert Hudson, who lived through the civil rights movement and attended the event out of pure curiosity. “I don’t remember any articles, nothing really stood out. But I wanted to know more about it.” 

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