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Annie Malone helped shape St. Louis

May 25, 2010 History/Preservation, North City 9 Comments

There was a small fire in the Ville neighborhood on this day in 1941.  The fire was intentionally set, but it was not arson.  Before we get to 1941 we must start more than 20 years before.

In 1919 Annie Malone (at age 50) donated the first $10,000 to build a new building for the St. Louis Colored Orphans’ Home.  In 1922 the cornerstone was set in place.  Annie Malone’s Poro College opened in 1917, selling beauty products to black women, had made her wealthy by any standard at the time.

ABOVE: Site of Poro College occupied now occupied by a vacant housing building for the elderly
ABOVE: Site of Poro College occupied now occupied by a vacant housing building for the elderly

Poro College was a major cultural and employment center in the Ville neighborhood.

“In 1930, the first full year of the Depression, as Annie Malone entered her sixties and moved her headquarters to Chicago, she was financially devastated by a divorce (her second) and, soon thereafter, by two civil lawsuits. The lawsuits (for liability to an employee and a St. Louis newspaper) partially crippled her ability to conduct business, which, a few years later, in 1943, during the middle of World War II, was further ravaged by a lien to the Internal Revenue Service. After fighting the lawsuits for eight years, she lost Poro to the government and other creditors who took control of her business.”

The above gets ahead a bit.  When the mortgage on the orphans’ home was was paid in 1941 a ceremony was held to celebrate the occasion.   Annie Malone, in her early 70s and having the issues described above, came back to St. Louis from Chicago to light the paid note.

ABOVE: The Annie Malone Home built in 1922 as the St. Louis Colored Orphans Home)
ABOVE: The Annie Malone Home built in 1922 as the St. Louis Colored Orphans' Home

Malone was the president of the board of the home for decades.  Five years after the note was paid the board renamed the home after her.

“This home began as the St. Louis Colored Orphans Home in 1888 at 1427 North Twelfth Street. Its site had been purchased for a home for black soldiers after the Civil War. In 1905 it relocated on Natural Bridge Avenue until moving to the present location. An important annual event in the black community is the Annie Malone May Day Parade, a fund raising activity for the Home.” (source)

Here is a short KETC (PBS) video on Annie Malone:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uVOOjnbJ-EU

Additional reading on Annie Minerva Turnbo Pope Malone (1869-1957):

I’m very impressed with her accomplishments.  Few women born in 1869 became millionaires or lived so long.  Her business was an important element in the segregated city, providing jobs to the neighborhood.  I can’t help but wonder why she moved Poro College to Chicago in 1930.  She had been in St. Louis for 28 years at this point and with a public divorce and fight for control of the business she might have been embarrassed to stay.  But I wonder if the business had outgrown it’s impressive building in the Ville neighborhood?  By 1930 much of the city and the Ville neighborhoods where blacks could live were fully built out.  Finding land to construct a larger building may have been impossible for her.  The description of her Chicago campus and the photo of the administration building (see list above) lead me to believe that although she had strong ties to St. Louis, she realized greater personal opportunities in Chicago.

– Steve Patterson

 

Currently there are "9 comments" on this Article:

  1. Sud says:

    Sounds to me like she was a hooker that extorted orphans to make money and didn't pay her taxes. I guess its a good reason to have a parade.

     
  2. JZ71 says:

    Maybe I shouldn't be surprised by the first comment, but I am surprised that there is less of a celebration of the accomplishments of African Americans in St. Louis. Denver, with a much smaller black population, has both the Black American West Museum (http://www.blackamericanwestmuseum.com/), in the preserved home of Denver's first black female physician, and the Blair Caldwell African American Research Library (http://aarl.denverlibrary.org/).

    In 1992, The New York Times published the following Travel Advisory: “A new guide published by the St. Louis Public Library lists 46 sites that illustrate the role of African-Americans in the history of St. Louis. Among them are the Scott Joplin House, where the ragtime composer lived in 1900; the Old Courthouse, where Dred Scott's first two trials were held, beginning in 1847; Sumner High School, the first school west of the Mississippi for blacks, established in 1875 (among graduates are Grace Bumbry, Arthur Ashe and Tina Turner), and Clamorgan Alley in Laclede's Landing on the Mississippi. That street, named for Jacques Clamorgan, a West Indian who followed the fur trade to St. Louis in 1780 and whose descendants settled much of the area, is part of Laclede's Landing, an area of shops and restaurants.” I don't know if it's still available.

    The city posted a comprehensive history on its website in 1996 (http://stlouis.missouri.org/government/heritage…). The Convention and Visitors Commission has several pages of information on its website (http://www.explorestlouis.com/visitors/multicul…). Surprisingly, there seem to be only three museums, the old Courthouse, the Scott Joplin House and the Griot Museum of Black History and Culture (which I had not heard of previously), located at 2505 St. Louis Ave., and open Wednesday-Saturday, 10-5. Everything else seems to be places, sites and walks . . .

     
    • Margie says:

      JZ71, you raise an excellent point. So much significant black history in St. Louis deserves a truly significant museum. It could be a real community builder — and a major tourist draw too. St. Louis should make black history part of its brand. It's time.

      On a separate note, I was at the downtown STL Starbucks a few weeks ago and two women in town for a convention were asking the barrista where the Dred Scott museum was. He had no idea of what that meant or who Dred Scott is. I was able to point them to the OCH — but it was an interesting moment.

       
      • JZ71 says:

        A little closer to home, Louisville has the new (and impressive) Muhammad Ali Center (http://www.alicenter.org/Pages/default.aspx), while Memphis has Beale Street, Stax Records and the Lorraine Motel/National Civil Rights Museum (http://www.civilrightsmuseum.org/home.htm).

        I've been here for more than five years, now, and haven't been motivated to visit the Old Court House, the Scott Joplin House or the Griot Museum (http://www.thegriotmuseum.com/), yet, as I suspect is the case with many other people, both natives and new residents. Looking at an old building with a few static displays really isn't much of a draw these days, especially in a world of YouTube, I Phones and online content.

        The other part of our history, like many other cities, is in music, whether it's the old ragtime blues (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Louis_blues) or the newer hip-hop of Nelly (http://www.nelly.net/). Nashville, Memphis and Austin all have thriving music districts, yet the nearest/best we can come up with seems to be the U City loop.

         
  3. mbt shoes says:

    Hhe article's content rich variety which make us move for our mood after reading this article. surprise, here you will find what you want! Recently, I found some wedsites which commodity is colorful of fashion. Such as mbt outlet store that worth you to see. Believe me these websites won’t let you down.

     
  4. Cheryll says:

    I was very happy to hear about Annie Malone’s story. You never hear much about successful American-Africans that early in our history, much less a woman! Her story can be a motivation for other young people to realize their potential, that they too can have success in their life. I am surprised that Madam Walker would get more attention when it was Annie Malone who trained Madam Walker!! Oh well that’s history for you. You really don’t know unless you were there!

     
  5. Cheryll says:

    I was very happy to hear about Annie Malone’s story. You never hear much about successful American-Africans that early in our history, much less a woman! Her story can be a motivation for other young people to realize their potential, that they too can have success in their life. I am surprised that Madam Walker would get more attention when it was Annie Malone who trained Madam Walker!! Oh well that’s history for you. You really don’t know unless you were there!

     
  6. k&cgranny says:

    Several years ago the DuSable Musuem in Chicago had an exhibition about Annie Malone. It was very inspiring. I too was amazed that there Madame C.J. Walker is more widely known as the woman who revolutionized Black hair care when it was her former teacher, Annie Malone.

     

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