Annie Malone was born on August 9, 1869, to two former slaves, one of whom, her father, was a member of the Union Army during the American Civil War. She did not finish high school and instead became a professional hairdresser, a profession she would later describe as being a “beauty doctor.”
By twenty years old, the entrepreneurial instinct in Annie had emerged in the form of two new products she developed on her own: a shampoo line and a growth/ straightening scalp treatment. Annie would personally sell these products in a shopping cart, traveling the streets of Peoria, Illinois giving mini-speeches about why her target market needed her products.
Annie eventually became successful enough to mobilize it to a more fitting market: Saint Louis, Missouri, home of the fourth largest African American population in the United States. It was in St. Louis that Annie expanded her business, ultimately trademarking her products and becoming one of the nation’s wealthiest black women.
It was by using this influence of wealth and business acumen that Annie was able to become an advocate for children and children’s programs, including to the YMCA and countless black orphanages around the United States.
To spread her business and cosmetology knowledge, Annie founded “Poro” Beauty Colleges around the country, named after the name she originally assumed for her business dealings. Annie Malone passed away on May 10, 1957 at age 88.
Annie built her empire in the city of St. Louis Missouri and every year the city of St. Louis celebrates her accomplishments holding the annual Annie Malone May Day Parade. The parade has its roots in a very significant event for Annie Malone:
It started with a mortgage burning-party, Malone and her staff had reason to celebrate, when more than 90 years ago, they paid off a loan on their building.
After that, the parade took on a new purpose: as a way for local businesses to showcase their products and services. The parade event is the longest running African-American parade and the second largest in the country (after the Bud Billikin parade in Chicago).