Everyone has heard of Oprah Winfrey and Madame C.J. Walker, but have you heard of Annie Malone? She was the first Black, female millionaire with a reported $14 million in assets, generated from her beauty and cosmetics company in 1920. Here are facts about the entrepreneur:
1. Employed Madam C.J. Walker
Annie Malone was two years younger than Walker. She launched her hair care business four years before Walker, who was an employee of hers.
2. She Built a Beauty College in 1918
Poro College included her business’ office, manufacturing operation and training center as well as facilities for civic, religious and social functions. By 1926, the college employed 175 people in St. Louis. Through its school and franchise businesses, the college created jobs for almost 75,000 women in North and South America, Africa and the Philippines, according to an article titled Notable American Women: The Modern Period
3. Revolutionized Hair Care Methods for African-Americans
While experimenting with hair and different hair-care products, Malone manufactured her own line of non-damaging hair straighteners, special oils and hair-stimulant products for Black women. At the time, many women used goose fat, heavy oils, soap or bacon grease to straighten their curls, which damaged both the scalp and hair.
4. Made Chemical Achievements Without Formal Training
Malone was able to make innovations with chemical products even though she didn’t have a degree in chemistry. Her interest in chemistry came from her aunt who was a herbal doctor.
5. Used African Heritage to Copyright Products
Malone called her beauty product line Poro, meaning physical and spiritual growth. It was also a West African secret society located throughout Liberia and Sierra Leone. She sold the products door to door in the early 1900s
6. A True Philanthropist
Although worth millions, Malone lived relatively modestly and donated a large portion of her money to the Black community and historically Black colleges and universities. Her $25,000 donation to Howard University was one of the largest gifts the university had received from a private donor of African descent. From 1919 to 1943, Malone served as board president for the St. Louis Colored Orphan’s Home. During this time, she donated $10,000 toward a new building for the orphanage.
7. Business Thrived Until She Became the Target of Lawsuits
Her second husband, Aaron Eugene Malone, filed for divorce and demanded half of the business’ value, based on his claim that his contributions had been integral to its success.She negotiated a settlement of $200,000, but other lawsuits followed. One of the lawsuits against her was brought during the Great Depression by a former employee who claimed credit for her success. The lawsuit was settled in 1937, and she was forced to sell the St.Louis property.
8. U.S. Government Confiscated Poro
In 1943, she owed almost $100,000 in unpaid taxes to the U.S. government. By 1951, the government took control of Poro. Most of the property was sold to pay the taxes.
9. Orphaned at Young Age
Born Annie Minerva Turnbo to parents who had escaped slavery along with her older siblings, she was the 10th child of 11. She was raised by her older sister because her parents died when she was young.
10. She Didn’t Have Children
She never had any children. On May 10, 1957, she suffered a stroke and died at Chicago’s Provident Hospital. She had bequeathed her business and remaining fortune to her nieces and nephews.