The story behind one of the founders of Essence magazine.
In 1968, after the deaths of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy, with blacks rioting across America, the last thing most people were thinking of was launching a magazine geared toward black women. And yet, in 1969, that's exactly what Lewis and three other men, none of who had any magazine experience, did. For the first five years, funding was a major issue, but then the magazine, which originally was going to be called Sapphire, "turned the corner, looking as if it might actually become a Thoroughbred and start running in the black." Essence did become that thoroughbred, with a circulation of more than 1 million readers. The concept of success and empowerment became the focus, which, for black women at the time, was definitely a new idea. Lewis combines stories of his childhood in the 1940s and ’50s in Virginia—where he worked long hours in the field alongside his grandparents and lived without running water or electricity—with the rise of the magazine. Readers can see firsthand how the strength and perseverance that were instilled early on aided Lewis through the multiple obstacles he encountered in the magazine business. Bickering and infighting between various editors, a lack of respect among the founding partners, passive-aggressive tactics in the management, and the corruption of power and a possible takeover of the company threatened the future of the magazine. All of this caused Lewis such aggravation that he broke out in hives; ultimately, however, the magazine prevailed. After 35 years, Lewis is considered a leading magazine publisher in the country; through his modest and sincere voice, readers will understand why.
A detailed chronology of the rise of a popular magazine.