Essence magazine has long been established as a staple in the Black community and now the iconic publication is sharing their story of how it all began.
According to Shadow and Act, HBO Max is developing a period drama series surrounding the launch of Essence magazine in the post-civil rights era. The project is executive produced by Edward Lewis, an Essence co-founder and the chairman and publisher emeritus of Essence Communications, Inc.
Lewis founded Essence Communications, Inc . in 1938 with Clarence O. Smith, Cecil Hollingsworth, and Jonathan Blount. They started publishing the magazine, a lifestyle publication for Black women, in 1970.
The series is described as a show that was “inspired by the relationships between the men who founded the iconic women’s magazine and the women who were the creative force behind it.”
“Set amid the changing social and cultural landscape of post-civil rights era America, the series is inspired by the relationships between the men who founded the iconic women’s magazine, Essence, and the women who were the creative force behind it, as they create something mainstream America has never seen before,” the release states. The show will tell the story of a Black startup before “startup” was a term and explores universal themes of love, loss and the pursuit of the American Dream.”
News of the series comes after the company publicly announced the furlough of staff “due to revenue losses” amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
In a press release, Essence revealed that the negative impact of COVID-19 led to the cancellation of major events such as the annual Essence Music Festival, which was slated to hold its 26th annual event this year.
“Six months into an unprecedented and continuing global pandemic, COVID-19 has had a broader and longer-lasting impact than anyone expected – and Essence Communications, Inc. (“ECI”) has not been immune to it,” the magazine said in the announcement. “Nonetheless, our commitment to successfully guiding this iconic brand through these immediate challenges and forward is unwavering. Our team and the community we serve are too important. The culture we reflect and create is too important,” the publication continued. “The platforms we’ve built for the celebration, inspiration, and empowerment of Black women and communities are too important. This is why we are making the business decisions we are making today.”
Despite the setback, the publication is making a digital comeback after announcing that Vice-Presidential candidate Kamala Harris would be featured as the cover for their 2020 Election special coverage issue.
According to the release, the feature follows Harris’s story leading to the current campaign trails after being documented for more than a year by the publication, chronicling Harris’s groundbreaking run for the White House back by a full staff of
“In the midst of what many perceive to be multiple pandemics affecting the African-American community—from the unprecedented coronavirus, social unrest, police brutality, economic instability, incendiary rhetoric on the political stage and more—ESSENCE continues its multi-platform coverage at the cusp of one of the most historic elections in our lifetime,” the release states. “ESSENCE technology and commerce company dedicated to Black women is dedicating its 2020 Election special coverage to vice-presidential nominee Kamala Harris’s historic run for the White House, featuring Harris on the cover of its Election 2020 digital package and the stories of the Black women leading the campaign.”
During the interview, Harris weighs in on a number of topics including detailing the Biden/Harris agenda and speaking out regarding the current sociopolitical climate.
“There’s no question that we need immediate change and drastic change, and that’s so much of what the Biden-Harris platform and what the Biden-Harris administration will be about. It’s about saying, ‘We need to immediately address a number of issues that demand priority….’ And that relates to getting people back to work. It means investing in infrastructure and creating millions of new jobs. It means fighting for health care for all people,” Harris said. “I have seen too many cases of not only unarmed Black folks being killed, but women, and we need to speak their names and understand that we have to have justice.”