BY MR. E. C WILLIAMS
Librarian, Howard University Washington, D. C.
Formerly Librarian of Western Reserve University, Cleveland. Ohio
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 com-
munity 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 cen-
ters. One of the recognized accompaniments of modern commercial and profes-
sional life and organization is the directory. In 1820 Bradstreet first published
his famous commercial directory in New York. In 1913 the publisher of this
work thought he saw the need of a directory for the colored business, pro-
fessional and educational world of Baltimore, and later included other cities. That
his thought was a g-ood one is evidenced by the fact that in the years intervening
since 1913 this work has been published each year and similar works have
been compiled for other cities with large colored populations, in imitation
of Mr. Coleman's idea.
One of the very interesting things about this directory is its compiler, him-
self well known in the cities which figure in its pages. Mr. Robert W. Coleman
comes of good stock, being the son of A. B. Coleman, who, associated with the
younger Frederick Pouglass, helped to organize the colored Forty-fourth, Forty-
fifth and Fifty-fifth regiments in Massachusetts during the dark days of the
Civil War, and for this service received the thanks of the legislature of Boston.
Mr. Coleman was born November 3rd, 1876, at 708 I) Street, N. W., Washington,
D. C. He is a brother to Mr. John H. Coleman, a prominent business man of
Chicago, 111., Dr. A. B. Coleman and Mrs. Daisy Coleman Arnold, of Washington,
D. C., a cousin of Mrs. Laura Jones, of Tuskege Institute, and of the late Judg'e
Robert H. Terrell and Wm. Terrell, of Washington, D. C., an uncle of Mrs. James
A. Mitchell, wife of Detective James A. Mitchell, of St. Paul, Minn., and great
uncle of Florence Harrold and James Mitchell. He married Miss Mary A. Mason,
of Baltimore, who has been an indispensable figure in the life and activities of
Mr. Coleman. Mr. Coleman has six children, all girls, Daisy G., Dorothy May,
Louise F., Catherine M., Harriett E. and Roberta A. Misses Daisy and Dorothy
are teachers in the public schools of Baltimore.
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 cities concerned. His energy,
courage and perseverance, under such a handicap, have been little short of mar-
velous. Mr. Coleman is a graduate of the Business Department of M Street High
School, Washington. In his later years under the administration of Rev. Williams'
secretary, he was a member of the board of directors of the Baltimore branch of
the Y. M. C. A. He organized the Maryland Association for Colored Blind, Oc-
tober 15th, 1913, which was reorganized May 3rd, 1925, as the Association for
the Handicapped, which includes the blind, mute and crippled. Incorporation
papers are now being prepared. April 13th, 1927, with the assistance of Mr.
Marvin Eckford and others, he organized the South Baltimore Y Club at John
Wesley A. M. E. Church for the purpose of erecting, a Y. M. C. A. in South
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 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
not do this, for the enterprise is certainly deserving of the most hearty and gen-
erous support of the public.