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African American Chamber of Commerce, AACCWR - 20th Anniversary, 1996-2016
"The right combination of savvy and support."


Susan L. Taylor Susan L. Taylor

6th Annual Women's History Month Luncheon & Business Development Day Luncheon Keynote Speaker - Susan L. Taylor, Editorial Director, Essence Magazine

Susan L. Taylor is editorial director of Essence magazine. She served as editor-in-chief of Essence from 1981-2000. Taylor is the driving force behind one of the most celebrated Black-owned–business success stories of the past three decades. She directs all editorial operations of the magazine and writes the popular “In the Spirit” column each month. In addition, Taylor oversees the content of all divisions of the multimedia organization and is currently launching a new magazine for the company. She also works with the chairman to develop new businesses and expand Essence’s global reach.

Through her monthly column, “In the Spirit”, her numerous public appearances and extensive international travel, she has become an inspiration to millions of people who see her as a living symbol of the award-winning magazine and the positive aspects of the African American community it promotes.

Taylor, a fourth-generation entrepreneur, researched and developed her own successful business, a line of customized cosmetics and natural skin-care products, in 1970—the same year Essence debuted. Taylor’s company filled a great void in the market and became highly profitable in its first year. Within weeks of its introduction, Nequai Cosmetics came to the attention of Essence editors, and Taylor was recruited to help the fledgling publication shape its beauty pages. In 1971 she was named the magazine’s beauty editor, and a year later her position was expanded to include fashion.
In her leadership role, Taylor has guided Essence through a period of phenomenal growth, making it the largest and most highly regarded magazine for Black women in the world. Her efforts have been recognized with numerous honors and a monthly readership of more than 8 million, a third of whom are men.

Taylor has been instrumental as well in the growth of Essence, and in 1984, with the launch of Essence, America’s first nationally syndicated Black-oriented magazine-format television show, she became nationally known. The weekly program, which ran for four seasons, aired in more than 60 U.S. markets and in several Caribbean and African countries. These early successes led to her being named a vice-president of Essence
magazine in 1986 and senior vice-president in 1993.

Taylor also functions as executive producer of the annually televised “Essence Awards,” the award-winning Fox Television Network special. She serves in a similar capacity for the annual Essence Music Festival, which brings chart-topping performers and over 200,000 people to New Orleans during the Fourth of July holiday each year. Taylor’s ESSENCE Empowerment Seminars, which bring together some of the most dynamic speakers to address issues of vital concern to African Americans, have become the highlight of the Music Festival.

As a member of the board of directors and arbiter of the style and substance that have made the Essence brand world-famous, Taylor is involved in the diversified company’s many ventures, including Essence Books, Essence eyewear and hosiery and Essence Entertainment. A much-sought-after speaker, she is also the author of three books—the perennially best-selling In the Spirit: The Inspirational Writings of Susan L. Taylor, Lessons in Living and Confirmation: The Spiritual Wisdom That Has Shaped Our Lives, the latter co-authored with her husband, Khephra Burns.

A graduate of Fordham University, Taylor is a member of the National Association of Black Journalists, the American Society of Magazine Editors and Women in Communications. Taylor has also served as a member of the Commission on Research in Black Education, an initiative of the prestigious American Educational Research Association. The aim of the Commission is to stimulate research and policy to improve education for and about people of African ancestry. She has received numerous awards and citations, notably the highest honor awarded to a publishing professional by the Magazine Publishers of America, the Henry Johnson Fisher Award. In 1999 Taylor became the first African American woman to receive The Henry Johnson Fisher Award, an award which recognizes people who have dedicated their lives to the magazine business and helped the industry thrive and expand, or through their editorial policies, address social, political, economic or lifestyle issues. In 2002, Taylor was inducted into the American Society of Magazine Editors’ (ASME) Hall of Fame, which celebrates the career-long records of excellence, creativity and impact of a select group of highly influential magazine journalists.

She has also received honorary doctorate degrees from Spelman and Bennett Colleges, Delaware State and Fisk Universities, and from the nation’s first college for African Americans, Lincoln University.

Taylor is an avid supporter of a host of organizations dedicated to moving Black people forward, including the Commission on Research in Black Education and the advisory board of the Black Administrators in Child Welfare. She is personally committed to serving and empowering the poor and to working with disadvantaged women and teenagers to help them realize their strengths and take charge of their lives. Taylor is currently co-chair of a capital campaign with Danny Glover for Shared Interest, a U.S.-based organization that guarantees credit to low-income South African families and communities.


  • A Better Way of Living: Creating Balance & Meaning in Your Life
  • Creative Leadership: From the Inside Out
  • A Better Way of Living
  • A New Vision for Women: Healing and Empowering Ourselves
  • Passionate Leadership




Susan L. Taylor
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