Annie Malone museum exhibit opens, highlighting Black beauty culture & her entrepreneurship roots in Peoria

Published: Sep. 16, 2023 at 5:32 PM CDT
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PEORIA (25News Now) - One of Peoria’s more successful historical figures now has a major exhibit at the Peoria Riverfront Museum.

Annie Malone was the country’s first African American and woman millionaire.

She made her fortune in the hair and beauty industry when she opened one of the country’s first beauty schools called Poro College.

Annie Malone attended Peoria High School, but when she became too sick to graduate, her aunt taught her about herbs and using them to heal herself.

This motivated Annie Malone to use these herbs and the science of chemistry to create natural hair care products.

The curator for the Life and Legacy of Annie Malone exhibit, Everley Davis, says it was here in Peoria when Annie Malone’s story really started.

”Annie got her interest in chemistry and started formulating different balms and concoctions to help with hair growth for her and her siblings. It was really here she formulated the product that was her claim to fame: the wonderful hair grower,” explains Davis.

One of the girls who will play a young Annie Malone in an upcoming movie was also present.

A descendant of hers, James Agbara Bryson, says her impact on women and her mission to give away part of her fortune to Historically Black Colleges and Universities, for years, solidified her foundation which was her religion and vision.

”She knew her purpose and she was able to live her purpose. When you know your purpose, it doesn’t matter who you are or what you are. If you can carry your purpose through, then God will bless you. I think Annie Malone is a great example of what purpose is,” Bryson says.

Today, companies like Avon and Tupperware use the same direct sales method that was popularized by some of Annie Malone’s Poro Beauty School students when it came to selling products.