Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

Robert W. Coleman (08/03/1876-01/25/1946)
MSA SC 3520-13687
Compiler/Publisher, Baltimore Colored Directory


Robert W. Coleman was born in Washington, D.C. to Alexander Coleman and Mary R. Jones. Alexander Coleman recruited soldiers for the 54th Regiment of the United States Colored Troops from Massachusetts, and achieved the rank of Sergant. Robert later moved to Baltimore, and married Mary Mason on August 5, 1903. They had six daughters together, Mrs. Dorothy Lymas, Mrs. Daisy Keets, Mrs. Harriet Matthews, Mrs. Katherine Cook, Mrs. Louise Jackson, and Mrs. Roberta Keets.

According to his obituary, Robert was a piano tuner by profession, who lost his sight sometime around 1911. After losing his sight, he became a social activist for the handicapped in the Baltimore Community. In 1913, he founded the Association for the Handicapped, Inc. He is credited with beginning "sight-saving" classes in the schools, providing care so children with disabilities could attend school, and purchasing eyeglasses for the less fortunate.

Also in 1913, Robert W. Coleman published the first edition of The First Colored Professional, Clerical, Skilled and Business Directory of Baltimore City with Washington, D.C. and Annapolis Annex.  While city directories published by other companies included African-Americans, Coleman's directory was the first of it's kind, whose main audience was the African-American community. Judge E.M Hewlett wrote in the 1916-1917 edition, "This effort of yours will do more than any thing else to instruct the American people, as to the achievements of the colored people along all lines, and thereby create a sentiment in favor of justice and fair play, where such sentiment does not exist."

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