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Since co-founding Essence magazine, Edward T. Lewis has become one of the most successful and respected magazine publishers in the country.
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Edward T. Lewis was born on May 15, 1940, in the Bronx, New York. In 1969, he co-founded Essence magazine, specifically targeted to black women. Propelled by the extraordinary success of Essence, he has become one of the most successful and respected magazine publishers in the country. In 1995, he also founded Latina magazine.
Publisher and entrepreneur Edward Taylor Lewis was born on May 15, 1940, in the Bronx, New York. He grew up impoverished in the projects of the South Bronx, a neighborhood plagued at the time by drug addiction and violence. Nevertheless, Lewis's parents—his father a night shift janitor at City College and his mother a factory worker—instilled in him a strong work ethic and desire to succeed.
Lewis attended De Witt Clinton High School in the Bronx, where he excelled academically and was a star fullback on the football team. Upon graduating from high school in 1958, he earned a football scholarship to the University of New Mexico.
Edward T. Lewis very nearly did not make it to New Mexico alive. The cross-country flight on TWA airlines was the first Lewis had ever boarded and it was nearly his last: An engine caught fire in midair and passengers began bracing themselves for death. "I knew that my life was over," Lewis later recalled, "and I had another fellow sitting next to me, and we held hands. We were reading the Bible because we knew that was it." But it wasn't. The plane made a miraculously safe emergency landing and Lewis arrived safely in New Mexico after all.
Upon beginning his studies that fall, Edward Lewis discovered that he was one of exactly 12 black students on a campus of more than 8,000. "There's certainly loneliness, but you have to adjust, you have to adapt," he said. "And my adapting revolved around meeting some really, really wonderful people who became my friends and enabled me to continue to grow and to do well there."
Attending college at the height of the American civil rights movement, Lewis studied the teachings of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X and grew outspoken in his demands for racial equality. This expression of what the university perceived as Lewis' "radicalism" resulted in the loss of his football scholarship during his sophomore year. Lewis was outraged but decided to stay in school anyway.
He later recalled a friend counseling him, "If you stay in school you may be able to have even greater impact with regard to what goes on in your community." Edward T. Lewis graduated from the University of New Mexico with a bachelor's degree in political science and international relations in 1964.
A year later, in 1965, Lewis landed a job as a financial analyst at First National City Bank in New York City. Lewis was steadily rising through the ranks at the bank, on track to become a loan officer, when in 1968 he attended a conference on blacks in the business world. He met many other ambitious young African-American professionals at the conference, leaving with a newfound determination to start his own uniquely black business.
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