No. 13: Ed Lewis/Clarence Smith/Susan Taylor, The Voice Of Black Women

For 40 years, Essence has celebrated the beauty and potential of African American women. Ed Lewis and Clarence Smith, among the original founders, handled finance and operations and generated sales while Susan Taylor, the face of the publication, maintained the editorial direction after becoming editor-in-chief in 1981. It was a perennial on the BE 100s until Time Inc. acquired a majority interest in 2005.

Ed Lewis

In celebration of our 40th anniversary, Black Enterprise is taking a look both forward and backward at the world of black business. Our list of 40 “Titans: The Most Powerful African Americans in Business–and How They Shaped Our World” recognizes and pays homage to the entrepreneurs and business men and women who paved the way for all of us. (Editor’s note: Essence magazine, founded in May of 1970, is also celebrating a 40th anniversary this year.)

Follow our exclusive 40th anniversary countdown of the most important black business leaders of the four decades since Black Enterprise Magazine was founded in August 1970.

Clarence Smith

These are the men and women who fought the odds, suffered setbacks, regrouped, and eventually emerged victorious. Whether they conducted business from their own offices or the executive suite, their professional excellence, deal-making prowess, and unwavering advocacy converted promise into channels of prosperity and levers of power. These are the pioneers who withstood the elements–institutional racism, resistance from the business establishment, and lack of resources–to plant a flag on their own patch of territory.

These are The Titans: bold leaders who shattered conventional modes of commerce. Because of their contributions over the past 40 years, the world of business has been transformed forever.

Be sure to pick up the commemorative 40th anniversary August 2010 issue of Black Enterprise, which contains the entire Titans list.