Essence Festival: Celebrating 20 Years with 20 Moments

Since 1995, Essence Festival has been a prime annual event for African-American women with an affinity for R&B, gospel and spiritual, financial and family advice. In this series we revisit those moments with the narratives of the founders, players and devoted fans that were there from the very beginning.

ESSENCE.COM Mar, 17, 2014

In 1995, Essence’s publisher Ed Lewis was looking for a way to commemorate the magazine’s 25th anniversary. A music festival to be hosted in New Orleans, the South’s party hotbed, sounded like a fun way to acknowledge the occassion.

The Essence Festival was born, and 20 years later, it’s the premier cultural gathering for black women and for African Americans more broadly, boasting of an audience of more than 540,000 music lovers.

And who hasn’t graced the Essence Fest stage? No one. From Janet Jackson, Luther Vandross, Aretha Franklin to Kanye West and Beyonce, black musicians that span generations all have the Essence Festival in common.

It’s an event with a rich history and to celebrate it, each week up until the 2014 festival, we’ll talk to founders and the Essence movers and shakers about how they got the festival off the ground, what it took to continue its stellar tradition and all the fun stuff that happened in between.

Keep an eye out for these stories, and get your chance to win something special from Essence on #TriviaTuesdays.

What are your favorite Essence Festical moments? Share them with us on Twitter using the hashtag #20Years20Moments. And don’t forget to cop your tickets for this year’s Essence Festival!