Turnbo attended school in Peoria, Illinois, but she never finished high school. Instead, she practiced hairdressing with her sister. When she and her family moved to Lovejoy, Illinois, Annie decided she wanted to become a "beauty doctor."
At the age of 20 she had already developed her own shampoo and scalp treatment to grow and straighten hair. Taking her creation to the streets, she went around in a buggy making speeches to demonstrate and promote the new shampoo.
By 1902, Annie Turnbo's home shampoo venture thrived and she moved to St. Louis, Missouri, home of the nation's fourth-largest African American population, to expand her business. She was largely successful and she trademarked her beauty products under the name "Poro."
In her lifetime, Malone became one of the nation's wealthiest black women. She became a leading cosmetic entrepreneur but she was also a leader in the St. Louis black community. In 1918, Poro's success allowed Malone to build a four-story, million dollar factory and beauty school complex in the historic black neighborhood of "The Ville," in St. Louis. It employed over 175 people and enabled young black women to pursue their high school and college educations by providing them with jobs and lodging.
During the 1920s, Malone's philanthropy included financing the education of two full-time students in every historically black college and university in the country. Her $25,000 donation to Howard University was among the largest gifts the university had received by a private donor of African descent. She also contributed to the Tuskegee Institute. She contributed thousands of dollars to educational programs, universities, to the YMCA, and to nearly every black orphanage in the country.
Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D.