BY MR. E. C. WILLIAMS
Librarian, Howard University, Washington, D. C.
Librarian of Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio; and
Principal. M Street High School, Washington, D. C.
One of the great differences between modern civilization and the ages that have gone
before is to be noted in the use by many men of information compiled and published by
one of their number. It is impossible to make even an approximate estimate of the time
and energy saved to the human race by the application of such a process in modern life.
Little by little men have learned the value of organization and co-operation, and have
understood how to make use of the labors of their fellows, and today the extent to which
this is done in any group or community is an accurate index of the state of advancement
of that group.
For a long time after the Civil War, the colored people in this country were "hewers
of wood and drawers of water, " and their business and industrial life was of the simplest
kind. As the years passed slight changes were noted, and in very recent years the change
has been most rapid, especially in the great urban centers. One of the recognized ac-
companiments of modern commercial and professional life and organization is the direc-
tory. It is now sixty-two years ago since Bradstreet first published his famous com-
mercial directory in New York. Nine years ago the publisher of this work thought he
saw the need of a directory for the colored business, professional and educational world
of Baltimore, and later included the adjacent cities of Washington, Wilmington and
Annapolis. That his thought was a good one is evidenced by the fact that in the years
intervening between 1913 and the current year 10 editions of this work have been pub-
lished, and similar works have been compiled for other cities with large colored popula-
tions, in imitation cf Mr. Coleman's idea.
One of the very interesting things about this directory is its compiler, himself well
known in the three cities which figure in its pages. Mr. Robert W. Coleman, comes of
good stock, being the sen of Sergeant A. B. Coleman, who, associated with the younger
Frederick Douglass, helped to organize the colored regiments in Massachusetts during
the dark days of the Civil War, and for this service received the thanks of the legislature.
He is a brother of Mr. John H. Coleman, a prominent business man of Chicago, and a
cousin of Judge Robt. H. Terrell, of the Municipal Court, Washington, D. C.
Stricken, after he reached adult manhood, with almost complete blindness, Mr,
Coleman, though weighed down by the responsibility for the care of large family,
showed the stuff that was in him by learning a new trade, that of piano-tuning, and in his
odd hours, at certain seasons of the year, collecting the advertising and other materiel;
for his directory in the four cities concerned. His energy, courage and perseverance,
under such a handicap, have been little short of marvelous. Mr. Coleman is a graduate
of the Business Department of M Street High School, Washington.
The directory idea, in this new age of progress and expansion among the colored
people, is capable of almost indefinite extension, and its possibilities are unlimited. It
is our hope that the originator of the idea may some day realize his most ambitious
dreams concerning it. With the assistance of and co-operation of the communities in-
volved, not only in the way of advertising, but also in the furnishing of complete and ac-
curate information, there is no reason why he should not do this, for the enterprise is
certainly deserving of the most hearty and generous support of the public.