Former Essence Magazine Editor Was Fired Over Clashes About Portrayal Of Black Women

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Editor Essence Magazine
Essence Magazine

AFRICANGLOBE – Many were shocked when news hit that Essence editor-in-chief Constance White was leaving her post at the helm of the magazine after less than two years in the position. It was widely reported that White’s departure was of her own volition, but a new interview with Richard Prince’s Journal-isms reveals that she was fired.

In her own words, White explains that her termination was the [result] of several disagreements with Time Inc. Editor-in-Chief Martha Nelson about how Black women should be represented by the monthly.

She told Journal-isms: “Essence, the nation’s leading magazine for Black women, was originally Black-owned but has not fared well under Time Inc. ownership, White maintained. “Nelson vetoed such pieces as a look at African-American art and culture, and ‘I was not able to make the creative hires that needed to be made.’’

‘Disposable’ Editors?

She elaborated by email, “When was the last time you saw Essence in the community advocating for or talking with Black women? […] No more T-shirts with a male employee’s face on it being distributed at the [Essence] Festival.”

[…] “I had a certain point of view about Black women being central to this magazine. The boss didn’t agree with me and the president didn’t agree with me,” she said, referring to Michelle Ebanks, president of Essence Communications. “It became an untenable situation.”

“This is a magazine where the central DNA was laid down by Gordon Parks,” she said, referring to the famed African-American photographer who helped found Essence and was its editorial director from 1970 to 1973. White intimated that her efforts to maintain Parks’ standards had been rebuffed.

“How is it that from 2000, when Susan [L. Taylor, longtime editor] left — she was pushed out — we have had about five editors, including two acting editors, yet Essence continues to decline? So where’s the problem? And the editors are the Black women. ‘They are disposable. Let’s keep changing them.’

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