Meet Annie Turnbo Malone, the hair care entrepreneur Trump shouted out in his Black History Month proclamation

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tags: African American history, Black History Month, business history, womens history

One of the first black women to reach millionaire status did so by launching a hair care empire — and her name wasn’t Madam C.J. Walker. Entrepreneur Annie Turnbo Malone reached this milestone at the end of World War I, and she just so happened to give beauty mogul Walker her start in the cosmetics industry. 

Since her 1957 death, however, Malone’s tremendous achievements have been widely overlooked. John H. Whitfield, the author of the biography A Friend to All Mankind: Mrs. Annie Turnbo Malone and Poro College, spoke to Vox about Malone’s work and legacy.

“Mrs. Malone’s legacy is a merging of women’s health and economic independence,” Whitfield said.

After starting a hair care line inspired by Malone’s products, Walker became one of the wealthiest Americans of the early 1900s. She’s since become a staple of Black History Month lessons, and there’s a Netflix show in the works about her life starring Octavia Spencer. Even people who aren’t very familiar with Walker likely know that she made a killing in the hair care business, but a mention of Malone outside St. Louis, where her business was first headquartered, is likely to elicit blank stares.

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