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Born in Rhode Island in 1820 to the children of slaves, Christiana Cateaux Bannister began her career as a hairdresser and wigmaker in Boston at the young age of twenty. It was in Boston that Bannister, eventually popularly known professionally as “Madame Carteauz,” became a successful businesswoman and entrepreneur, opening several salons.With salons located in Downtown Boston, Cambridge, and on Winter Street, Madame Carteaux developed a reputation among the African American community in New England for hairdressing and selling her own hair products. All three of these salons were open and operating until 1871 when Bannister and her husband relocated to Providence, Rhode Island.
In the time leading up to the Civil War, Bannister and her husband were activists and abolitionists, fighting to end slavery in each of the United States. Along with this activist, Bannister and her husband became deeply involved in the Underground Railroad, a system by which slaves would escape their masters through a chain of “safe houses” from the deep south all the way north to Canada.
During the Civil War, Bannister used her considerable wealth from owning such successful salons to advocate and lobby for equal pay for black soldiers in the Union Army and was influential in the creation of the all-black 54th Massachusetts Regiment, the first of its kind.
In November 1864 Christiana Cartcaux Bannister led the organization of a fair to benefit the members of the state’s African American regiments. There was a great need for such a fund-raiser to support the black soldiers, who had a dispute that had led them to serve without pay for a year and a half rather than accept less than white soldiers were paid.
African-American soldiers were paid $10 per month, from which $3 was deducted for clothing. White soldiers were paid $13 per month, from which no clothing allowance was deducted. If captured by the Confederate Army, African-American soldiers confronted a much greater threat than did their white counterparts.
In spite of their many hardships, African-American soldiers served the Union Army well and distinguished themselves in many battles.
Additionally, Madame Carteaux used her wealth to invest in the creation of a House for Aged Colored Women, a shelter for formerly-enslaved women considered too old to work domestically and were thus made homeless.
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).