Annie Turnbo Malone: A Black Philanthropist and Entrepreneur

Photo of Annie Turnbo Malone 

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 recorded as the U.S.'s first Black woman millionaire based on reports of $14 million in assets held in 1920 from her beauty and cosmetic enterprises, headquartered in St. Louis and Chicago.

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:


  1. Wow VCross! This is a great informative post!
    You are on your job for sure sis!

  2. Damaris, thank you for following the blog sis!! It's Black History Month so I'm doing double time reading and writing in my spare time. Really loved revisiting Sojourner Truth's story recently. I was also reminded of the Dutch ownership of the area we now call the State of New York before they traded it with the English for Suriname.
    Now, I'm working with an Ugandan friend for a BHH profile of a national hero in Uganda. My lips are sealed, stay tuned.

  3. I have never heard of Annie Malone or Poro, although I do know of Madame CJ Walker's story. Mrs. Malone came before her. This is so inspiring! I'm definitely sharing this story.

  4. I had heard of her and was told incorrect information! I am related to her she is my great great Aunt! I didn't find that out until recently. Her story is incredible and the world needs to know her truth!!! Terri Turnbo

  5. Thank you for sharing Annie Malone’s story and her contributions to our community. She took Black women out of the kitchen and fields (including Madam CJ Walker) and gave them opportunities to start their own business at a time when we were being denied our basic rights. The Annie Malone Historical Society (AMHS) wants to let our people know they can do the same today. Annie Malone’s history is a rags to riches story that needs to be told. Our youth believe sports and music are the only ways to become successful. Well, Ms. Malone created an entire hair and beauty industry without the use of computers, internet or cell phones and used those funds to uplift her people. Help the AMHS to tell her story so our young people will know they are creative and have the intelligence to do anything they choose. If we do not tell our history, who will?


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