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*On this date in 1877, Annie Malone was born. She was a Black businesswoman and inventor.
Born in Metropolis, Illinois, Annie Turnbo Pop Malone was the eleventh of twelve children. Both of her parents died when she was young and she was raised with an older sister in Peoria, Illinois. She took an early interest in hair textures and during the 1890s began looking for a better method for hair care for Black women. At the time many women were using soaps, goose fat, and heavy oils, anything to straighten their thick curls, often damaging their scalps in the process.
By the turn of the century, Malone had developed a variety of treatments and was one of the first to patent the hot comb. By 1902 she and her assistants were going door-to-door selling her Poro Products. Poro is a word that came from West Africa symbolizing physical and spiritual growth. Malone used the press extensively to publicize her products. Malone founded Poro College in 1917 in St. Louis, the first center in America dedicated to the study and teaching of Black cosmetology. The school employed nearly two hundred people and ran a curriculum that taught the benefits of a solid public persona-the correct walk, talk, and style of dress.
In 1930, after a nearly devastating financial second divorce, Annie Malone moved her entire operation to Chicago. Two law suits for liable by an employee and a St. Louis newspaper crippled her business and the federal government caught up with her in 1943. Eight years later they took control of Poro, selling off most of the holdings. Annie Malone died in 1957.
Annie Malone Children and Family Service Center
740 E 56th Place
Chicago, IL 60637