Joan Johnson, Co-Founder of Black Hair Company That Made Afro Sheen & Ultra Sheen, Dies at 89

Mary Scott
Sep 11, 2019
11:19 A.M.
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Joan Johnson, co-founder of the black hair care company that brought us such iconic products as Afro Sheen and Ultra Sheen, has died. She was 89.


According to CNN and The New York Times, Joan died on Friday, September 6, at her Chicago home following a long battle with an undisclosed illness.


In 1954, Joan and her husband George Johnson created Johnson Products Company, one of the country’s largest black-owned companies, to meet the hair needs of the African American consumer.

Still To Come: "I have many fond memories of my conversations with her...dispensing life advice"

Per CNN, Joan and her husband started with $250 and succeeded in building a multi-million dollar empire that became the first black-owned company to be traded on what is now known as the NYSE American.

The Times reported that Johnson Products had an estimated 80 percent of the black hair-care market in the 1960s and by 1970 it had annual sales of $12.6 million.


Joan’s son, Eric G. Johnson, told CNN:

"When I think about pioneers, the real pioneers are the people who are able to make a path where none exists. Johnson Products in many ways was that company. She and my father had no provided path. They created a path where there was none."


The iconic status of Johnson Products also lends from the fact that it famously sponsored “Soul Train,” the trailblazing TV variety show that ran for close to four decades. With that, the company secured a spot in pop culture history.

"The Johnsons were the first successful family we in the African American communities read about," Joan’s publicist Dori Wilson said. "I can't remember any other product that was really synonymous with the African American community."

Wilson continued: "[Joan was] someone I always admired. …She was perceived as a shrewd and smart businesswoman."


Joan was also known as an advocate for women, a trustee at Spelman College who was also famous for her sense of style. Joan’s family now intends to immortalize the matriarch by supporting Spelman with an annual scholarship.

Linda Johnson Rice, CEO of Johnson Publishing Company, described the late Joan as, among other things, “sharp-witted and fun.”

"She truly was a grande dame in every sense of the work; dignified, smart, sharp-witted and fun. I have many fond memories of my conversations with her...dispensing life advice. Her life is one to be celebrated."

Joan is survived by her husband, sons Eric, John, and George, daughter Joan Jr., ten grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren.

Services to celebrate the life of Joan Johnson will be held on Friday, September 13 in Chicago, CNN reported.

May her soul rest in peace.


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