Susan L. Taylor

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Susan L. Taylor in 2009

Susan L. Taylor (born January 23, 1946) is an American editor, writer, and journalist. She served as editor-in-chief of Essence from 1981 through 2000.[1] In 1994, American Libraries referred to Taylor as "the most influential black woman in journalism today".

Early life[edit]

Taylor was born in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City to a Trinidadian mother and a father from St. Kitts.[2] She grew up in East Harlem, where her father owned a clothing store. She went to a Catholic school. As a teenager, she moved with her family to the New York borough of Queens.[3]


Taylor started her career at Essence, a magazine for African-American women, in 1970, the year the magazine was founded. Her first position at the magazine was freelance fashion and beauty editor.[1] At the time, she was a divorced single mother without a college degree.[4]

By 1981, Taylor had risen to become editor-in-chief, a position she held until 2000.[1] During the 1980s, she attended night school and earned a B.A. from Fordham University.[4]

In addition to her editing responsibilities, Taylor had success building the Essence brand. She was executive producer and host of Essence, the Television Program, a syndicated interview program broadcast on more than 50 stations for four years during the 1980s. In the 1990s, she began Essence Books.[4]

Taylor's monthly inspirational column, "In the Spirit", became a popular feature of the magazine. She published three volumes of selected columns.

In 2000, Taylor was promoted to publications director. She left the magazine in 2008.[1]


In 1986, Taylor received a Candace Award from the National Coalition of 100 Black Women.[5] In 1987, she received the Matrix Award from New York Women in Communications.[6][7]

The Magazine Publishers of America gave Taylor its Henry Johnson Fisher Award, considered one of the industry's highest honors, in 1998. She was the first African-American woman to receive the award.[1][8]

In 2002, Taylor was inducted into the American Society of Magazine Editors' Hall of Fame for her work at Essence.[9][10]

Exceptional Women in Publishing presented Taylor its fifth annual Exceptional Woman in Publishing award in 2003.[11]

In 2006, the NAACP gave Taylor its President's Award.[12]

Taylor is an honorary member of Delta Sigma Theta sorority; she was inducted on July 13, 2013.[13]

Personal life[edit]

In 1989, Taylor married writer Khephra Burns at their home in upstate New York.[14] Taylor's daughter, Shana, owns a beauty supply business and is married to NBA Hall of Fame inductee Bernard King.[4]

Published works[edit]

  • In the Spirit: The Inspirational Writings of Susan L. Taylor, 1993.
  • Lessons in Living, 1995.
  • Confirmation: The Spiritual Wisdom That Has Shaped Our Lives, 1997. Co-authored with Khephra Burns.
  • All About Love: Favorite Selections from "In the Spirit" on Living Fearlessly, 2008.


  1. ^ a b c d e Arango, Tim (December 28, 2007). "Essence Editor Is Leaving Magazine". The New York Times. Retrieved June 7, 2016. 
  2. ^ Taylor, Susan L. (April 1992). "Journeying into the Light". Essence. Retrieved June 7, 2016. 
  3. ^ Taylor, Susan L. (April 19, 2010). "Susan L. Taylor Talks Back to The Root". The Root. Retrieved June 7, 2016. 
  4. ^ a b c d McHenry, Susan (November–December 2004). "Black Publishing's Inspirational Godmother". Black Issues Book Review. Retrieved June 7, 2016. 
  5. ^ "CANDACE AWARD RECIPIENTS 1982-1990, Page 3". National Coalition of 100 Black Women. Archived from the original on March 14, 2003. 
  6. ^ Dougherty, Philip H. (February 17, 1987). "Women's Group Names Matrix Award Winners". The New York Times. Retrieved June 7, 2016. 
  7. ^ "Matrix Awards Hall of Fame". New York Women in Communications. Retrieved June 7, 2016. 
  8. ^ "Henry Johnson Fisher Award Recipients". MPA – The Association of Magazine Media. Archived from the original on August 3, 2012. Retrieved June 7, 2016. 
  9. ^ Carr, David (May 2, 2002). "Magazine Award Winners, if Not Profit Champions". The New York Times. Retrieved June 7, 2016. 
  10. ^ "Magazine Editors' Hall of Fame". American Society of Magazine Editors. Retrieved June 7, 2016. 
  11. ^ "Exceptional Woman in Publishing Award". Exceptional Women in Publishing. Retrieved June 7, 2016. 
  12. ^ "The 37th NAACP Image Awards Winners". NAACP. Archived from the original on November 24, 2011. Retrieved June 7, 2016. 
  13. ^ Clifford, Patricia (August 6, 2013). "Delta Sigma Theta Centennial Celebration, Convention". Philadelphia Tribune. Retrieved June 7, 2016. 
  14. ^ "Society World". Jet. October 16, 1989. Retrieved August 19, 2016.