Recommending Another Good Book: The Man from Essence, Creating a Magazine for Black Women

Another one of my business friends who has written an inspiring and well worth reading book is Mr. Ed Lewis, the co-founder of Essence Magazine.  I recently ran into Ed last weekend at the Essence Festival in New Orleans, where both he and I were signing copies of our new book.  I signed and gave Ed Lewis a copy of mine, and he did the same.  I tucked it away in my backpack, and out of emense respect for him and all that he has done, I pulled it out this weekend to read.  And boy was I inspired!

In short,  Ed Lewis is not only talking about the building of a great magazine for Black women, he is talking about, in his words, "Black Capitalism and Black Entrepreneurship," and what in 1968 (the year that both Dr. King and Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated), many thought was the real, new battleground for the civil rights movement — economics and ownership. Of course, I agree completely.

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Pick up a copy of Mr. Lewis' book, maybe even out of respect for what he has built.  But then you should read it — because it could actually change your life, and impact significantly what you believe you can create, in and for your own life, and for our world.

Below is a little background on the book itself, and you can purchase your own copy of The Man From Essence: Creating a Magazine for Black Women, here.

Essence magazine is the most popular, well respected, and largest circulated black women’s magazine in history. Largely unknown is the remarkable story of what it took to earn that distinction.

The Man from Essence depicts with candor and insight how Edward Lewis, CEO and publisher of Essence, started a magazine with three black men who would transform the lives of millions of black American women and alter the American marketplace. Throughout Essence’s colorful and storied history, Ed Lewis remained the cool and constant presence, a quiet-talking corporate captain and business strategist who prevailed against the odds and the naysayers. He would emerge to become the last man standing—the only partner to survive the battles that raged before the magazine was sold to Time, Inc. in the largest buyout of a black-owned publication by the world’s largest publishing company. 

By the time Lewis did the deal with Time, a little magazine that limped from the starting gate in 1970 with a national circulation of 50,000 had grown into a powerhouse with a circulation of more than a million and a pass along readership of eight million. 

The story of Essence is ultimately the story of American business, black style. From constant battles with a racist advertising community to hostile takeover attempts, warring partners packing heat, mass firings, and mass defections—all of which revealed inherent challenges in running a black business—the saga is as riveting as any thriller steeped in high drama, hijinks, and juicy dishing. 

In this engaging business memoir, Ed Lewis tells the inspiring story of how his own rise from humble South Bronx beginnings to media titan was shaped by the black women and men in his life. This in turn helped shape a magazine that has changed the face of American media.

*Starred Review* For 35 years, Essence evoked race pride not only as a black women’s magazine but also as a successful black business enterprise. Lewis, one of the original partners who founded the magazine in 1969, recounts the tempestuous journey before the magazine was sold to Time Warner in 2005. Lewis grew up in the South Bronx, was a student activist at the University of New Mexico, and was a law school dropout working as a banker when he met four young black men with the same drive to strike out on their own in the burgeoning era of black consciousness. Lewis was the quiet one of the group, the one who eventually withstood 35 years of turmoil in the magazine business, overlaid with racial challenges and personality clashes. He candidly admits to major stumbles: failing to understand the delicate balancing act of men managing a women’s magazine, editors coming and going, and the public relations nightmare of Playboy’s investment in the magazine. But the greatest threat proved to be the contentious relations among the partners. Through it all, Essence managed its brand well, branched into television, a music festival, an awards show, and book publishing, providing a platform for myriad black writers and jou
rnalists. Lewis, ever the businessman, addresses charges that he “sold out” in 2005 and characterizes himself as the last man standing in the success saga of Essence. –Vanessa Bush
 

Review

“Who knew that Essence, a magazine that has celebrated the stories of millions of black women for more than 40 years, has its own juicy story to tell? Bravo to Ed Lewis, cofounder, CEO, and publisher ofEssence, for telling it with guts and honesty.” (Bill Cosby)

“Ed Lewis tells it like it is in The Man from Essence, a great romp about the amazing years in the life of a cultural touchstone, Essence magazine. He delivers a juicy story that captures the euphoria of the hard work required to win against the odds and be the "last man standing." Bravo!” (Benilde Little, author of Good Hair)

“Ed Lewis invites us on the journey of a lifetime, and shows us how persistence, resilience and plain old-fashioned grit are still the keys to achieving the American Dream.” (Richard D. Parsons)
 

Once again, one will not find a great deal of travel between this great book, on building a great magazine for Black women in America, to my own now book How The Poor Can Save Capitalism: Rebuilding the Path to the Middle Class. The Solution for the 100%.

We can do this, one community building block at a time!   It's about building, and rebuilding a culture. There is absolutely nothing wrong with us.

Let's go.

 

John Hope Bryant is the Founder, Chairman and CEO of Operation HOPE and Bryant Group Companies, Inc. Magazine/CEO READ bestselling business author of LOVE LEADERSHIP: The New Way to Lead in a Fear-Based World (Jossey-Bass), and is the only 2010-2012 bestselling business author in America who is also African-American. His newest bestselling book is HOW THE POOR CAN SAVE CAPITALISM(Berrett Koehler Publishing). Bryant is a Member of the U.S. President's Advisory Council on Financial Capability for Young Americans, and co-chair for Project 5117, which is a plan for the rebirth of underserved America.

Follow John Hope Bryant on LinkedIn Influencers here.

 

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