Annie Turnbo Malone: A Black Philanthropist and Entrepreneur

Photo of Annie Turnbo Malone (1869-1957)

Before Oprah Winfrey and Madame C.J. Walker there was Annie Turnbo Malone (aka Annie Minerva Turnbo Pope Malone and Annie Minerva Turnbo Malone), an African American entrepreneur and philanthropist during the early 20th century. Malone is reportedly the U.S.'s first black millionaire based on reports of $14 million in assets held in 1920 from her beauty and cosmetic enterprises.

Early Life of Annie Turnbo

On August 9, 1869, Robert Turnbo and Isabella Cook became parents to Annie in Metropolis, Illinois. Annie attended school in Illinois where she apprentenced with her sister as a hairdresser. By 1889, Malone had developed her own scalp and hair products that she demonstrated and sold from a buggy throughout Illinois.

Launches the "Poro" Brand in St. Louis, MO

Image of Poro College, St. Louis

By 1902, Malone's business growth led her to St. Louis, Missouri, which at the time held the fourth largest population of African Americans. In St. Louis she copyrighted her Poro brand beauty products. In 1914, in a St. Louis wedding, Malone married the school principal Aaron Eugene Malon.

Photo of Poro College Administrative Building

By 1917, Malone opened the doors of Poro College, a beauty college which was later attended by Madam C.J. Walker. The school reportedly graduated about 75,000 agents world-wide, including the Caribbean. By 1930, the first full year of the Great Depression, Malone had moved from Missouri after divorcing her second husband and settled on Chicago's South Side.

The Black Philanthropist

From 1919 to 1943, Malone served as board president of the St. Louis Colored Orphan's Home.  She had donated the first $10,000 to build the orphanage's new building in 1919. During the 1920s, Malone's philanthropy included financing the education of two full-time students in every historically black college and university. Her $25,000 donation to Howard University was among the largest gifts the university had received by a private donor of African descent.

Photo of Annie Turnbo Malone

On May 10, 1957, Annie Turnbo Malone was treated for a stroke at Provident Hospital in Chicago where she died. At the time of her death Poro beauty colleges were in operation in more than thirty U.S. cities.

St. Louis honors her memory with the Annie Malone Children and Family Service Center whose mission is "is to improve the quality of life for children, families, elderly and the community by providing social services, educational programs, advocacy and entrepreneurship."

Further reference: Annie Malone Children and Family Service Center:


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