Annie Malone’s niece calls out missing facts in series about Madam C.J. Walker
The Netflix series “Self Made” tells the harrowing story of Madam C.J. Walker, an astute and accomplished Black businesswoman who became a millionaire in the early 1900s.
However, many viewers have issues with the direction of the series, which is based on Walker’s life. For instance, Addie Monroe is based on Annie Turnbo Malone. In the series, Addie Monroe is viewed as Walker’s nemesis, and in several scenes, the two women face off in an imaginary boxing ring. Monroe is also depicted as a mulatto, which is a dated term for a mixed-race person.
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In real life, Annie Malone was a fair-skinned Black woman who taught Walker the hair business before Walker branched out on her own. Many believe that Malone was America’s first Black millionaire.
In seeking to keep her aunt’s legacy alive, Malone’s niece, Sasha Turnbo, took issue with the series.
“Annie Turnbo Malone was nothing as this series portrayed,” Turnbo said on a post featured on Instagram. “My aunt established her business, started selling products and doing in-house demonstrations for African American women. Annie learned about herbalism from her own aunt. Before Mary Kay or Avon, there was Poro.”
Turnbo said Walker — whose real name was Sarah Breedlove — was taught by Malone.
“Sarah Breedlove, aka Madame C.J. Walker, was introduced to my aunt through Sarah’s older brother, who was a barber,” Turnbo said. “Annie Malone took her in and taught her the business. Sarah Breedlove used ‘Poro Wonderful Hair Grower’ to treat her scalp condition and was documented on Census records as an Annie Malone Poro agent. Breedlove learned the business from my aunt for two years.”
Turnbo also said that her aunt was likely the wealthiest person in St. Louis during the early 1900s.
“Annie was the highest taxpayer in St. Louis,” she explained. “Most White men were after her because no Black woman had achieved such success and wealth. Annie opened 30-plus schools all over the world, including [in] St. Louis, Chicago, New York and the Caribbean. She housed millions of people in her college and taught some of the most profound African Americans in our history.”
Turnbo also went after the filmmakers for creating the narrative of Malone and Walker as rivals.
“It appears that the Black women that created this movie found more comfort in using those stories as positive, profound moments than acknowledging the woman who taught Walker and the power in the bond that was created,” she said. “Though Annie and Sarah had their fallout, Annie did not stop spreading her light. The entire country was after Annie Turnbo Malone, and she is an iconic woman. Annie’s story is coming to light and will be given the respect she deserves.”
A.R. SHAW IS AN AUTHOR AND JOURNALIST WHO DOCUMENTS CULTURE, POLITICS, AND ENTERTAINMENT. HE HAS COVERED THE OBAMA WHITE HOUSE, THE SUMMER OLYMPICS IN LONDON, AND CURRENTLY SERVES AS LIFESTYLE EDITOR FOR ROLLING OUT MAGAZINE. SHAW’S LATEST BOOK, TRAP HISTORY, DELVES INTO THE HISTORY AND GLOBAL DOMINANCE OF TRAP MUSIC. FOLLOW HIS JOURNEY ON TRAPHISTORY.COM, TWITTER @ARSHAW AND INSTAGRAM @ARSHAW23.