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This Is Annie Turnbo Malone; The First Black Woman To Become A Millionaire

Annie Minerva Turnbo Malone was the first Black woman to become a millionaire. She owned a Black hair care empire called Poro that reported assets of $14 million in the year 1920.

At a young age, Malone was very fascinated with hair and hair care. She often practiced hairdressing on her sister, and later she began applying her knowledge of chemistry to develop her own hair care products.

Her line of products were specifically designed for African-American women, a market that was largely ignored at the time. She cleverly marketed her products by hiring other saleswomen to go door to door doing demonstrations. One of her most popular products was called “Wonderful Hair Grower,” which obviously helped women grow their hair.

However, there was a bit of a rivalry between her and Madam C.J. Walker, another successful Black business woman who also had a similar product with the same name. But historians agree that Malone originated the product and it’s name, and Walker’s was an imitation. But both women’s products were popular, and they both obtained a lot of wealth.

More than just hair care products

Malone also established a school in St. Louis, Missouri called Poro College. Black beauticians and hair stylists came from all across the country to learn Malone’s techniques so that they too could establish their own businesses. There were also etiquette courses teaching women how to walk, talk and dress for work.

In 1930, Malone decided to move the college to Chicago, Illinois. She once commented, “The people there (in Chicago) are accomplishing things. The atmosphere is one of commercial striving, endeavor and promise.”

She even decided to renovate the headquarters for her company there, and also bought an entire block of mansions in Chicago. Unfortunately, the project didn’t last long because of her costly divorce from her husband at the time, and also a management problem that affect her company’s sales. The Poro block was eventually demolished.

On May 10, 1957, Malone died at Chicago’s Provident Hospital from a stroke. She was 79-years old.

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