Book: Colored People’s Blue-Book and Business Directory of Chicago

Colored people's blue-book and business directory of Chicago

I could find little on the author of this business directory, which was published privately in 1905, but the directory itself is a goldmine of social history. To give a little context, Chicago was one of the destinations for African-Americans during the Great Migration; morever, the city was founded by a Haitian fur trader in the 18th century, and post-Civil War Illinois was progressive in its anti-discrimination and segregation laws. Nevetheless, in a big city such as Chicago, segregation was rife, and African-Americans settled in the “Black Belt,” or the neighborhoods on Chicago’s South Side. There, well-to-do, middle-class, lower-class, and poor African-Americans lived cheek-by-jowl, surviving and thriving in less than ideal circumstances. However, a quick glance through this directory reveals pages of industries in which Chicago’s African-Americans were involved: from restaurants to dentistry, newspapers to millinery, and law to laundries. A lone entry that stokes my imagination is that of Madam Pearl Black, a Clairvoyant–one can only ponder what sort of fortunes she gave her clientele!

You can read the directory here:

Or download it for future perusal here.


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5 replies on “Book: Colored People’s Blue-Book and Business Directory of Chicago”
  1. says: Hels

    Why did the author of this business directory feel he/she had to publish the book privately in 1905? Were African-American businesses not included in the normal city-wide business directories?

    1. For the most part, they were not; however, if an African-American business catered exclusively to white clientele (i.e. a barber or a restaurant), there was a chance they would be listed in the regular business directory. This directory, and others like it, served two purposes: first to show the prosperity, business acumen, and intelligence of African-Americans despite opinions otherwise, and secondly, to help new black migrants know where to go for goods and services (that is, where they would be welcome).

  2. says: Ree

    The American racial scene before the 1960’s was very segregated…African-Americans,then referred to as “Negros” or “Colored” lived only in specific areas of many American cities…

  3. says: Victoria Limes

    Thanks for sharing. You have a talent for making this era of history interesting and accessible for everyone.

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