When I decided to go natural in 2014, I spent hours on Youtube watching natural hair youtubers like TheChicNatural, Naptural85, and Chizi Duru discuss and show natural hair care. Often their videos would feature Black-owned brands that were specifically made for Black hair like Shea Moisture, Camille Rose Naturals or Curls. All brands that would not exist had it not been for businesswoman, inventor and the first African American millionaire, Annie Malone.
Annie Malone (nee Turnbo) was born on August 9, 1869 in Metropolis, Illinois. She was the daughter of Robert and Isabella Turnbo. Her father had fought for the Union in the Civil War and her mother had escaped slavery in Kentucky and moved the family to Illinois. Annie went to public school in Metropolis before moving to Peoria with her older sister, she took an interest in chemistry but was unable to finish high school because of illness.
This didn’t stop Annie from inventing, and by the time she was 20 she had created shampoo and a scalp treatment for Black hair. Malone frequently promoted and demonstrated her products on the street. Eventually she moved to Missouri, which had a large Black population, to further expand her business. Malone launched a hair care line which she named Poro and later established Poro Beauty College, cosmetology schools for Black women.
If you haven’t heard of Annie Malone before, you’ve heard of one of her employees-Madam C.J. Walker. Walker was an employee of Malone’s before a disagreement led her to leave the company and launch her own brand, allegedly using the Poro formula.
Malone relocated to Chicago in 1930 where she spent the rest of her life. When she died in 1957 at age 88, there were over 30 Poro Beauty College locations.
I sat down today to write this story on Madam C.J. Walker but was led to Annie Malone instead, an amazing businesswoman and inventor who laid the foundation for the world of Black hair we experience today.
This post is my first installment in my Black history specials. Thanks for reading and if you want to talk more about Annie Malone, Black hair, cosmetics or whatever make sure to subscribe and follow me on instagram, twitter, or facebook!
Sources: https://www.blackpast.org/african-american-history/annie-turnbo-malone-1869-1957/, https://shsmo.org/historicmissourians/name/m/malone/
I do not own any of the photos used in this post, all credit goes to the owners