Female black hair entrepreneur: Annie Turnbo Malone

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Continuing our African American Hair Then & Now series for Black History Month, I will be talking about Annie Turnbo Malone, a major mover and shaker in the Black hair industry during the 20th century. “By 1900, Annie Turnbo Malone, had developed successful straighteners, hair growers, special oils, and pomades. Malone also manufactured and sold Wonderful Hair Grower and, with her assistants, sold products door-to-door. She opened Poro College in St. Louis in 1902, where she trained women as agents for the Poro system.”

Annie Turnbo Malone
"Poro College recruited primarily women with the promise that work with Poro would make them self-sufficient and financially independent. Training programs gave each recruit a set of skills that could be used outside the company as well as within it. By 1905, Madame C. J. Walker was one of Malone’s first students.”

Malone growing up
  • "She was born in Metropolis, Illinois, and was orphaned at an early age
  • Her parents, who may have been former slaves, lived in Kentucky
  • In her teens she had developed an interest in hairdressing and hair care 
  • She later studied chemistry in order to learn more about the subject”
Wonderful Hair Grower

Malone and her hair business
  • “Malone was regularly swindled by both dishonest managers and outsiders who took advantage of her generosity
  • Her husband, whom she divorced in 1927, attempted to claim half of her business
  • She was also repeatedly sued for non-payment of federal taxes. By 1950 most of the Poro property was sold”

Malone vs. Madame C.J. Walker
  • “Madame C. J. Walker (1867–1919) is believed by some to be the first black woman to become a millionaire; supporters of Annie Turnbo Malone (1869–1957) dispute this
  • Both women produced hair-care products for black women during the period
  • Both became very wealthy by around 1910, but by 1927 Malone’s business began to run into difficulties due to poor management”

Photo and content source: credoreference.com
Wonderful Hair Grower 
Book sources:
Logan; Winston. Dictionary of American Negro Biography. p. 621 (Walker).
Encyclopedia of Black America. p. 545 (Malone); p. 830 (Walker).
Negro Almanac. pp. 1393–94 (Walker).
Smith. Notable Black American Women. pp. 724–27 (Malone).
Ingham, J. N. and Feldman, L. B. (1994). African-American Business Leaders: A Biographical Dictionary, Westport, CT: Greenwood Press

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