Tuesday, May 25, 2004

30 Essence

The Hollingsworth Group, consisting of Jonathan Blount, Cecil Hollingsworth, Edward Lewis, and Clarence O. Smith, jumped on the coming wave of feminism in the media, and brought out Essense, one of the first “black is beautiful” magazines addressed specifically to the African American woman of the 1970s.

The Publisher’s statement:
"Essence will include the most significant developments in public affairs, education, entertainment, and the arts as they relate to our Black community, as well as fiction, poetry, and features on Black heritage, travel and careers. . .personal problems with your men. . . It will serve you as a fashion and beauty authority, presenting the clothes, cosmetics, and hair styles that are suited to your particular good looks, taste, and many varied skin tones. . . food. . . home decorating. . .showcase for Black talent."
Leafing through my 34 year old, Volume 1, Number 1, May 1970 issue, I’m pleasantly surprised to see it has worn well. There is a wonderful photo collection by Gordon Parks which includes Rosa Parks, Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm (I can get chills just remembering her voice), Black Muslim women in white veils, and Kathleen Cleaver (now a grandmother of 6 and a lawyer).

Many of the articles, even those on fashion of skinny maxi knits in brilliant colors and functional inexpensive wicker furniture, could be rerun today. The articles on the tensions between the sexes by Louise Meriwether and Alvin Poussaint can still be trotted out and rebroadcast in the hip-hop music scene.

Looking at the current web page (June 2004), it seems to have wholeheartedly embraced the fluffier aspects of its 1970 statement of purpose--fashion, high profile musicians, and a lot of skin exposure--of many shades.

ECP is the current publisher of ESSENCE, “the preeminent lifestyle magazine for today's African-American woman.” with a “monthly circulation of more than 1 million and a readership of 7.6 million -- 29% of which is male (the cover of three buxom females will explain that statistic).”

Volume 1, number 1, May 1970
ISSN: 0014-0880 (supplied)
Subject: African American women--lifestyle
Publication schedule: monthly
The Hollingsworth Group, Inc.
102 East 30th St.
New York, NY 10016
60 cents; $6.00/year, $10.00/2 years
President: Jonathan Blount
Editorial Director: Gordon Parks
Editor-in-Chief: Ruth N. Ross

Update: Apparently, hiring a white woman was controversial, but the editor in chief explains her choice. Link.

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