African American Spotlight: Annie Minerva Turnbo Malone (January 2022)

January 31, 2022

The Southeastern Synod’s Diversity and Justice team is shining a spotlight on the hidden figures of history. These individuals deserve to be celebrated for their contributions to inventions, charity, civil rights, politics, the arts, and beyond.  Join us each month in our celebration of African Americans throughout the year.
 


 

Annie Minerva Turnbo Malone

Annie Minerva Turnbo Malone
 

Annie Minerva Turnbo Malone, a chemist, and entrepreneur became a millionaire by successfully developing and marketing hair products for black women in St. Louis. She used her wealth to promote the advancement of African Americans and gave away most of her money to charity.

Born on August 9, 1869, in Metropolis, Illinois, Annie Minerva Turnbo was the tenth of eleven children born to Robert and Isabella Turnbo. Her parents died when she was young, and an older sister raised her. Annie attended high school in Peoria, Illinois, but she was often sick and missed class. Though she did not graduate, she did discover she was good at chemistry. In 1914 Annie Turnbo married Aaron E. Malone, a St. Louis school principal. By the end of World War I, she was a millionaire and one of the most successful black women of her time. Malone was extremely generous with her money and helped a variety of African American organizations and charities, including the St. Louis Colored Orphans Home.

Annie Malone established Poro College in St. Louis in 1918. The cosmetology school and training center offered black women a place to advance themselves. The facilities also housed Malone’s business operations and served as a place for the African American community to gather for various civic functions.  The aftermath of the 1929 stock market crash hit the company hard, as did a series of lawsuits. Despite these financial setbacks, Malone remained in business and had thirty-two branches of the Poro school throughout the country in the mid-1950s. She also continued to support charities in St. Louis and around the nation throughout her lifetime. She died in Chicago on May 10, 1957.

Annie’s legacy as a pioneer in the African American beauty and cosmetic business has largely been overshadowed by the success of her former employee, Madam C. J. Walker. This is beginning to change, however, and Malone is now being recognized for her role in launching the industry.  Her charitable legacy also continues. The St. Louis Orphans Home, which was renamed after her in 1946, is now the Annie Malone Children and Family Service Center. The street on which the center is located was renamed Annie Malone Drive in her honor. Go to https://www.anniemalone.com for more details.