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Peoria Riverfront Museum celebrates first Annie Malone Day with announcement of a special exhibition

Quilt featuring a portrait of Annie Malone, the first Black female millionaire, created by Trish Williams
This quilt features a portrait of Annie Malone, the first Black female millionaire, created by Trish Williams.

The Peoria Riverfront Museum will feature an exhibition about the life of Annie Malone, the first Black female millionaire.

Born in Metropolis, Illinois on Aug. 9, 1869, Annie Malone spent much of her childhood in central and southern Illinois. She attended Peoria High School in 1896, but did not graduate due to illness.

By the time Malone had turned 20, she had developed her own shampoo and growth products. She traveled by buggy and made speeches to advertise her products.

The success of her hair care line, called Poro, allowed Malone to establish the Poro College cosmetology school.

Poro College was the first of its kind as the first Black-owned cosmetology school. By the time of her death in 1957, 30 cities across the nation still had operational Poro College campuses.

The exhibition, called the “Life and Legacy of Annie Malone,” at the Peoria Riverfront Museum will be the largest display on Malone in the country.

At a news conference on Wednesday, museum president and CEO John Morris said Malone’s story is an important 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," said Morris.

The conference also featured a signing ceremony with the great-great-nephew of Annie Malone, Agbara Bryson, who donated his personal artifacts in order to put together the exhibition.

The ceremony, called a “promised gift” by Morris, solidifies the partnership between Bryson and the Peoria Riverfront Museum to continue enlarging its collection of artifacts from Annie Malone’s life.

The museum plans to feature the exhibit during tours organized by its Every Student Initiative.

Implemented in the fall of 2017, the Every Student Initiative is a collaborative effort between the museum and central Illinois school districts that brings K-8 students to the museum for free.

Community and Every Student Initiative coordinator Everley Davis said the philanthropic and economic successes of Annie Malone will be impactful for all visitors.

“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.

“Life and Legacy of Annie Malone” will open on Sept. 16. For more information on exhibitions featured at the Peoria Riverfront Museum, visit website.

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Isabela Nieto is a student reporting intern at WCBU. Isabela is also a student at Bradley University in Peoria.