Greetings from Duke and Billie

The African-American legacy has been recorded in many ways -- on television, in film and in print.

But now there is the growing popularity of a new monument to the past -- greeting cards.


American Greetings has started its own line of black-themed cards, collaborating with Ebony magazine and companies that represent former heavyweight boxer Muhammad Ali and mega-church minister Bishop T.D. Jakes of Dallas.

Hallmark greeting cards were the first to jump on the opportunity in the 1960s, with the introduction of the Mahogany line of cards, which are inspirational and cater to life's occasions.


However, American Greetings has taken another approach to reaching the African-American audience -- putting on its greeting cards historically significant Ebony magazine covers of individuals and milestones, pictures of a young Ali along with his famous sayings and inspirational sayings by Jakes.

"We want them to resonate with the African-American consumer," says Paul Palmer, director of ethnic marketing for American Greetings, which has partnered with Johnson Publishing (Ebony's publisher), Muhammad Ali Enterprises and TDJ Enterprises.

"There is a deep, enduring emotional connection between the black community and our brand," said Lisa Butler, assistant vice president of licensing at Johnson Publishing.

Ebony's connection to the history of its readers is evident in the 36 cards that make up the Ebony and Ebony Inspiration collections, which consist of some of history's most memorable African-American legends.

On those cards are vintage covers of jazz greats such as Duke Ellington and Billie Holiday, who was raised in Baltimore. Other notables include former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, boxer Joe Louis, tennis star Arthur Ashe, civil rights activist Rosa Parks and actors Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee.

The Ali collection represents an array of images that capture the personality of the fighter whose words of wisdom and poetry during his heyday contributed to his "float like a butterfly, sting like a bee" persona.

"Muhammad Ali was a prolific poet whose sayings are timeless," says Ed Tagliaferri, senior vice president of Ali Enterprises.

TDJ Enterprises previously partnered with Hallmark for the Dallas pastor's first line of cards. The company's new line of cards with American Greetings is called "Gentle Guidance and Inspirational Messages by T.D. Jakes."


"The cards feature Bishop T.D. Jakes' encouraging messages on personal betterment and spiritual strength coupled with selected Bible verses and an inspirational photograph," said Ayo Morris of TDJ Enterprises.

Palmer hopes that people feel the "passion of the people behind the cards."

The cards, which became available during Black History Month, can serve as collectible items, history lessons or inspiration for the human spirit, he said.

Ebony, Ali and T.D. Jakes cards are available at Rite Aid, Kmart and Wal-Mart stores.