BACKGROUND: Annie Turnbo Malone (1869-1957) was one of the richest African American women in the United States at one time just a generation after slavery had ended in the country. During the 1920s, Malone was reported to have been worth fourteen million dollars. Founder of an extremely successful line of hair-care products, Malone exhibited both a sharp mind for marketing as well as an overly generous cash disbursement policy. As her business grew increasingly prosperous, Malone neglected to keep a tight rein on in-house finances, while at the same time bestowing large sums of money to worthy charitable organizations; such policies eventually spelled the end of her large enterprise. Malone's dramatic rise in the hair-care field has often been overshadowed by that of one of her former employees, Madame C. J. Walker, but it was Malone, historians assert, who developed the first successful formulas and marketing strategies aimed at straightening African American hair without damaging it.
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