The First Millionaire African-American Hairstylist and Barber

Annie Turnbo Malone

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You have heard of Oprah Winfrey? Sure, who hasn’t? How about Madam C.J. Walker? No brainer. I can see heads nodding up and down all over the place.

   How about Annie Malone? Blank stares. Silence. Crickets chirping. Never heard of her…

   Yet, before Madam Walker, Rosa Parks, Mary McLeod Bethune, Oprah Winfrey or Cathy Hughes there was Annie Turnbo Malone (aka Annie Minerva Turnbo Pope Malone and Annie Minerva Turnbo Malone), a remarkable woman who made her mark during the early 20th century.

Annie Minerva Turnbo Malone (August 9, 1869—May 10, 1957) was an African-American  businesswoman, educator,  inventor and philanthropist. Annie was two years younger than Madam C. J. Walker. She had launched her hair care business four years before Sarah Breedlove (later known as Madam C. J. Walker). In the early 1900s Madam Walker worked as a “Poro Agent” for Annie for about one year. (http://www.freemaninstitute.com/poro.htm)

While in Peoria, Malone took an early interest in hair textures. In the 1890s — being a lover of styling hair — Annie began to envision a way of straightening hair without having to use the methods of old which included using soap, goose fat, heavy oils, butter and bacon grease or the carding combs of sheep.  She’d also witnessed method of hair straightening which employed lye sometimes mixed with potatoes, but was turned off by the procedure because it often resulted in damaged scalps and broken hair follicles. Annie-minkcoat

While she was coming of age, the popular style among Black women was that of a “straight hair” look.  Black women were starting to turn their backs on the braided cornrow styles they’d associated with the fields of slavery and began to embrace a look which, for them meant, freedom and progression toward equality in America.  Malone believed that if African American women improved their physical appearance, they would gain greater self-respect and achieve success in other areas of their lives.

Alonzo Herndon

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In 1878, Herndon left Social Circle on foot with only 11 dollars of saving and only had approximately one year of schooling and eventually went to Senoia, Georgia, to work as a farmhand and learned the barbering trade. Later, Herndon opened up his first barbershop in Jonesboro, Georgia. His barbering business thrived and expanded over the years. He later became the owner of three barbershops in Atlanta. Those barbershops had elite customers such as presidents, judges, business men and lawyers, who frequented the barbershop. He went on to invest in real estate, and then entered insurance. He began by buying a failing mutual aid association in 1905, which he incorporated as the Atlanta Mutual Insurance Association. By 1916, the Association was reorganized as a stock company capitalized at $25,000. In 1922, the company was reorganized as Atlanta Life Insurance Company, and became one of five African American insurance companies at the time to achieve legal reserve status. Atlanta Life’s business thrived,and expanded their business into Florida, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Tennessee, and Texas.

Through his enterprises Herndon became Atlanta‘s first black millionaire. Herndon was featured in The Crisis Magazine’s “Men of the Month” in March 1921. The article emphasizes his competence and success as a businessman. Read more here (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alonzo_Herndon)

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