Annie Turnbo Malone

Annie Turnbo Malone also has some conflicting accounts as to when she was born but she was born in the late 19th century sometime between 1869 – 1877 to former slaves in Metropolis, Illinois. Some historical accounts say that she dropped out of high school due to illness and others say to practice hairdressing, but by all records, she had a good knowledge of chemistry and by the age of 20 had developed her own shampoos and scalp treatments to grow and straighten hair. She took to the streets to demonstrate and sell her products as she was denied access to normal channels of distribution because she was Black. Despite ease of access, by 1902 her products were a success.

Malone named her company Poro Products and moved to St. Louis, Missouri to expand the business. Poro Products became an international company with customers in the United States, Africa, South America and the Caribbean. In 1918 Malone built a four-story factory and beauty school complex in the historic St. Louis neighborhood known as The Ville. She employed over 175 people.  One of her proteges was Sarah Breedlove who is better known as Madam C.J. Walker.

Annie Turnbo Malone became one of the nation’s wealthiest black women, a leading cosmetics entrepreneur, philanthropist, and leader in the St. Louis black community. In 1930, the business was relocated to Chicago, Illinois.  Malone remained in business until the mid 1950’s with 32 branches of her Poro School throughout the country.  She died in Chicago on May 10, 1957.  She is finally being recognized as a pioneer of the cosmetics industry for women of color.