BY MR. E. C. WILLIAMS
Librarian, Howard University, Washington, D, C.
formerly 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 approxi-
mate 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 accompaniments of modern commercial and pro-
fessional life and organization is the directory. It is now sixty-one years ago
since Bradstreet first published his famous commercial directory in New York.
Eight 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 nine editions of this work have been published,
and similar works have been compiled for other cities with large colored popula-
tions, in imitation of Mr. Coleman's idea. s
One of the very interesting things about this directory is its compiler, him-
self well known in the three cities which figure in its pages. Mr. Robert W. Cole-
man comes of good stock, being the son of Sergeant A. B. Coleman, who, asso-
ciated with the younger Frederick Douglass, helped to organize the colored regi-
ments 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 Mr. 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 a 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 adver-
tising and other material 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 arc
unlimited. It is our hope that the originator of the idea may some day realize
his most ambitious dreams concerning it. With the assistance and co-operation
of the communities involved, not only in the way of advertising, but also in the
furnishing of complete and accurate information, there is no reason why he should
net do this, for the enterprise is certainly deserving of the most hearty and gen-
erous support of the public.