annie malone

This Day in Black History: Annie Malone

annie_malone_first_black_woman_millionaireBefore there was Madam C.J. Walker or Oprah Winfrey, there was a woman who made it known that black women could strive financially, too, and that we, too, could be millionaires.

Annie Malone was born into a family of eleven children in Metropolis, Illinois. Her parents had once been enslaved. Malone loved enhancing the beauty of women, particularly when it came to their hair. Realizing the damage inflicted on black women’s hair during the straightening process, she sought a better way to straighten African American hair; a way that would minimize or prevent damage from occurring. At the start of the 1900s, she managed to develop a formula that did just that, and dubbed the formula “The Great Wonderful Hair Grower.” She moved to St. Louis, Missouri, and commenced door-to-door sales of her product.

During the World’s Fair of 1904, Malone opened a retail outlet where she sold her hair care product to persons who had come to visit the city. She received an enthusiastic response from all of the persons who purchased the product, and, with new-found confidence in her creation, she launched a marketing campaign to sell her product on a national scale.

She hired and trained other women to serve as local sales agents, and, once these women were trained, they recruited even more women to be trained. By 1910, her business was thriving and had expanded nationally.

Seven years later, in 1917, Malone founded and opened Poro College, a higher education institute based in St. Louis which focused on the study and teaching of African American cosmetology. Over 75,000 agents successfully graduated from the school worldwide, including the Caribbean. Once the college expanded, it occupied an entire block in Chicago, and Malone became one of the wealthiest black people in America, and the first female African American millionaire. Madam C.J. Walker, who was herself a millionaire and sold similar hair care products, was actually one of Malone’s early recruits.

How She Gave Back

Malone, once she became wealthy, also became a respected philanthropist, and donated large sums to the local black YMCA and the Howard University College of Medicine in Washington, D.C., as well as the St. Louis Colored Orphans Home.

She was the recipient of an honorary degree from Howard University and was named an honorary member of the Zeta Phi Beta sorority before her death in 1957.

By: Danielle Dixon

Follow her on Twitter: @tooprettydani

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