Original Founder of the Black Hair Industry And First Black Female Millionaire

 

Annie Turnbo
Malone was one of the richest African American women in the United States at
one time just a generation after slavery had ended in the country. Founder of
an extremely successful line of hair-care products, Malone exhibited both a
sharp mind for marketing as well as an
overly generous cash disbursement policy.
As her business grew increasingly prosperous, Malone neglected to keep a tight
rein on
in-house finances, while at the same time bestowing large sums of money to
worthy charitable organizations; such policies eventually spelled the end of
her large enterprise. Malone’s dramatic rise in the hair-care field has often
been overshadowed by that of one of her former employees, Madame C. J. Walker,
but it was Malone, historians assert, who developed the first successful
formulas and marketing strategies aimed at straightening African American hair
without damaging it.

Born August 9, 1869, on a farm in
Metropolis, Illinois, Malone was the tenth of eleven children of Robert and
Isabella Turnbo. Unfortunately her parents died at an early age and Annie
Minerva was taken in by an older sister in
Peoria, Illinois.
As with young women, her own
hairstyle was a
particular
preoccupation, but she
grew
dissatisfied with
the methods then in use by African American women of her generation that
involved goose fat, soap, or other oils for straightening purposes. Stronger
products on the market damaged the hair follicles or scalp in their efforts to
straighten naturally
kinky hair.
Malone formulated and perfected a line of products that was sold in local
stores around her home in
Lovejoy, Illinois,
by 1900. One of her products was called the Wonderful Hair Grower, and it is
thought that around this time Malone invented the pressing iron and
comb, a
hair-straightening device.

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