Susan L. Taylor devoted a significant portion of her life and career to writing and journalism, helping to establish Essence magazine as a powerful brand in Black media. Today, the former Essence editor-in-chief uses her time and platform to give back to less fortunate Black families, among other endeavors.
Taylor was born on this day in 1946 in Harlem, New York. She was raised primarily in the borough of Queens. Before joining Essence, Taylor established the Nequai Cosmetics line which her to writing for Essence magazine as a beauty editor. As a young divorced single mother, Taylor struggled to make ends meet while at the magazine, but she dug in. By 1981, the magazine named her as editor-in-chief, a position she held until 2001, remaining with the magazine until 2008.
The success of Essence has largely been attributed to Taylor’s involvement, which then expanded to her philanthropic endeavors. After the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, Taylor founded the Essence Cares organization, now known as the National CARES Mentoring Movement.
Taylor’s story of resilience and faith was featured in her monthly “In The Spirit” column. Select columns were compiled and released in 1993, the first of three other books. Along with her husband, Khepra Burns, Taylor co-authored Confirmation: The Spiritual Wisdom That Has Shaped Our Lives.
Among Taylor’s countless honors, she is the first Black woman to win the Magazine Publishers of America’s Henry Johnson Fisher Award. She was also inducted into the American Society of Magazine Editor’s Hall of Fame in 2002. And though Taylor did not begin her career with a college degree, she pushed herself via evening classes and ultimately earned a bachelor’s from New York’s Fordham University.
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