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Big, and Beautiful: Johnson Products Documentary (2017 Video)

George Johnson, Johnson Products

He was born in Mississippi on June 16th, 1927, George Ellis Johnson moved to Chicago with his mother and brother in 1929. As a boy, George shined shoes, then dropped out of high school and worked odd jobs to help support his family.

In 1944, he joined his older brother at Fuller Products, a cosmetics company founded by Samuel B. Fuller. Fuller, who would become the richest black American of the 1950s, inspired his employees with sayings like, “take what you have and make what you want”.

Johnson quickly mastered door-to-door sales, then joined Fuller’s laboratory staff, where he learned how to make lipstick, foundation and cologne. By 1953, George had risen to head production chemist and was married with two children.

11 Jan 1976, Chicago, Illinois, USA --- Chicago: George E. Johnson a black entrepreneur with a high school education who parlayed a $250 investment into a company that grossed $39 million in sales, is seen in his office holding a few of the products made by Johnson Products Co., Inc. The firm is now the largest black manufacturing company in the world, with over 400 employees. --- Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS
11 Jan 1976, Chicago, Illinois, USA — Chicago: George E. Johnson a black entrepreneur with a high school education who parlayed a $250 investment into a company that grossed $39 million in sales, is seen in his office holding a few of the products made by Johnson Products Co., Inc. The firm is now the largest black manufacturing company in the world, with over 400 employees. — Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

That same year he met a celebrity stylist, who needed a product that would straighten his client’s hair without burning their scalp. With Samuel Fuller’s blessing, George created a gentle hair relaxer for black men at the Fuller labs, then approached his bank for a $250 business loan to market his “Ultra Wave Hair Culture”.

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