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Virtual Annie Malone parade will be vibrant with history, hope

The legacy of Annie Turnbo Malone lives on, and so does the annual parade that raises money for Annie Malone Children and Family Services. But because of the continuing COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, the parade will be virtual, as it was last year.

The parade, sponsored by Midwest BankCentre, will be on Sunday, May 16, from 2 to 4 p.m. U.S. Rep. Cori Bush, D-St. Louis, will serve as Grand Marshal, and the parade’s theme will be “Resilience & Perseverance.” Special guests will include Best Dance Center, DJ Charlie Chan, and the Saint Boogie Brass Band. Co-hosts are Tammie Holland of Brown & Crouppen and Rhyan Henson from KSDK.

The 2021 parade will be presented on Annie Malone’s virtual platforms: and Annie Malone Children & Family Services on Facebook. There will be live performances, pre-recorded interviews and historical features.

“It is crucial that we host our May Day Parade to raise vital funds for programs and services for our youth,” Sara Lahman, Chief Executive Officer of Annie Malone, said in a statement. “Our highly trained and caring staff become like family, and we show up in whatever way our kids need us to show up. The wonderful support from the community has allowed us to leave a lasting impact on so many families, even during the pandemic.”

During its 133-year history, Annie Malone has provided culturally diverse, rapid response assessment, crisis intervention, parenting support, residential treatment and educational services to children suffering from extreme trauma. In 2020, the agency served more than 500 families, it said. 

In addition to Midwest BankCentre, parade sponsors include Bayer, St. Louis Community College, Brown & Crouppen and SteadyRain. To find out about supporting the Annie Malone Virtual May Day Parade, contact Jarel Loveless, Chief Development Officer, or 314-230-6541.

Who was Annie Turnbo Malone?

Annie Turnbo Malone

She was a chemist who developed and sold hair products for Black women, becoming a millionaire. She then used her money to help other Blacks advance in their careers and aspirations, and to provide practical, charitable aid.

An ad for Poro Vanishing Cream and Poro Face Power.

Turnbo was born in 1869 in Metropolis, Ill. While attending high school in Peoria, Ill., she discovered she had a flair for chemistry, and eventually developed a hair product to straighten hair without damaging it like the products then available. That grew into an entire line of Black hair care and beauty products.

In 1902, Turnbo moved her business, the Poro Co., to St. Louis as the city was getting ready for the 1904 World’s Fair. At the time, Blacks were barred from using regular marketing and distribution channels, so she and her assistants went door to door, giving demonstrations. The Fair gave her business a boost, and the Poro company went national.

St. James AME Church at 4301 St. Ferdinand Avenue at Billups Avenue now occupies the site of the former Poro College established by Annie Malone. Photo by Bill Beene/The NorthSider

Annie Turnbo married Aaron Malone, a St. Louis school principal, in 1914. Annie Malone established Poro College in St. Louis in 1918 as a cosmetology school and training center. The center also housed Malone’s business operations and offered space for civic gatherings.

By the 1920s, she was one of the most successful Black women of her time. She helped fund a variety of Black organizations and charities, including the St. Louis Colored Orphans Home.

Malone’s marriage failed, and the settlement was expensive. Then came the 1929 stock market crash and the Great Depression.

Annie Malone Children and Family Services

She moved her business headquarters to Chicago in 1930, but she continued to support charities in St. Louis and around the nation throughout her lifetime. She died in Chicago on May 10, 1957.

The St. Louis Orphans Home, which was renamed for her in 1946, is now the Annie Malone Children and Family Service Center, at 2612 Annie Malone Drive.

Annie Malone exhibit

The Annie Malone Exhibit “Moving Forward – Exploring the Legacy of Annie Malone” is featured at the Field House Museum in St. Louis through June 20.

A special exhibit on Annie Turnbo Malone is currently at the Field House Museum, 634 South Broadway. The exhibit runs through June 20; face masks are required.

Hours are Wednesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. until 4 p.m.; and Sunday from noon until 4 p.m. Admission is $10 for adults, $5 for children ages 7-16 and free for ages 6 and under. To arrange a tour, call 314-421-4689; more information is available at or by emailing

Staff is home to The NorthSider and The SouthSider weekly community newspapers. The SouthSider publishes 25,000 copies every Tuesday. The NorthSider publishes 25,000 copies every Thursday. They are distributed at over 600 locations across St. Louis.

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