Margaret Smith lost her home to Hurricane Katrina. As an avid collector of ESSENCE magazine, she couldn’t help but worry about whether her much-loved collection was damaged in the devastation. To her surprise, it wasn’t. When Katrina hit, the water flooded her home and rose to its fourth floor, but her magazine collection that was housed on the fifth floor of her property was spared. It was at that moment that Smith made her commitment to building her ESSENCE collection, which she started with copies given to her by her mother’s niece after her passing.
Smith has displayed her collection at the ESSENCE Festival for the past 18 years, missing only 2005—the year of Hurricane Katrina. “ESSENCE shows positive, progressive women of color,” said Smith. “I have grown from ESSENCE because it has taught me how to be me.”
Outside of being a collector, Smith operates the Margaret B. Smith Collections Gallery/Museum in New Orleans. In addition to showcasing her ESSENCE collection, the museum features displays of stamps dating back to 1865, comic books that go back to 1940s and credit cards as old as 1910.
Smith looks forward to future ESSENCE Festival events. “I love seeing thousands and thousands of people take photos of my collection,” she said. One Festival-goer raved about Smith’s collection. “It’s amazing that she is able to collect all of these magazines,” said Lacey Britton of New York City. “It’s a display that Black is beautiful.”