Illinois Museum Features Annie Malone, One of the First Black Female Millionaires

Annie Malone, one of the very first Black female millionaires, will be featured in an exhibit at the Peoria Riverfront Museum in Illinois.

By the time she was 20 years old, Malone, a Metropolis, Illinois, native born in 1869, had already created groundbreaking shampoo and hair growth products.

Despite having a limited education—she attended Peoria High School in 1896, but an illness prevented her from graduating—Malone was a successful entrepreneur.

Not only did she come up with innovative products, she also created her own marketing strategy. To advertise, Malone would travel by buggy to deliver speeches about her products. She launched a haircare line, Poro, which led to establishing Poro College, a cosmetology school. According to WCBU, the institution was the first Black-owned cosmetology school, with functioning campuses in 30 cities across the United States before Malone’s passing in 1957.

The Peoria museum exhibit, titled “Life and Legacy of Annie Malone,” will contain the largest Malone display in the country.

At a recent news conference, John Morris, the CEO and president of Peoria Riverfront Museum, said Malone’s story was an essential one to tell. “We have momentum in the story of Annie Malone to build confidence to spark learning, and to do what this museum is committed to doing every day and unleash the full talent and genius of every individual,” he said. 

Present at the conference was Agbara Bryson, the great-great-nephew of Annie Malone, who provided her personal artifacts to display in the exhibit. 

A partnership between Bryson and the Peoria Riverfront Museum means additional significant artifacts from Malone’s life will be displayed to the collection.

The exhibit is expected to be featured during tours organized by the Every Student Initiative, a joint effort by the museum and central Illinois school districts that provides free admission to the museum for K-8 students. 

Everley Davis, coordinator of the Every Student Initiative, believes the success of Annie Malone will affect all visitors to the museum. “I am hoping that every person that walks through here and sees her story on display is inspired, motivated, challenged, encouraged, to do something different and to be their best selves,” Davis said.

The “Life and Legacy of Annie Malone” exhibit is scheduled to open September 16.  

Additional information on exhibitions at the Peoria Riverfront Museum can be found on the museum’s site.