|The Woods Directory
by Keith Weldon Medley
The Woods Directory billed itself as “A Classified Colored Business Professional, and Trade Directory:’ Published between 1910 and 1915, the directory presented a comprehensive look at the workaday world of the century’s early New Orleans Black community. For those researching ancestors or simply interested in the city’s African-American roots, the directory paints a vibrant picture of commerce, initiative and ambition. There are copies in the Louisiana Division of the New Orleans Public Library, Tulane University and University of New Orleans archives.
Allen T. Woods was an advertising writer by trade. From offices at 1823 Seventh St. in Uptown New Orleans, he operated a service that mimeographed documents, addressed envelopes, and typed personal letters, contracts, specifications and notices. To increase his advertising revenue, each year Woods solicited ads and business cards, organized and printed the directory, then distributed 5,000 free copies throughout the city. His efforts offered a chance for the city’s smallest entrepreneur to the large Black insurance companies and undertaking firms to promote their products, services and skills. For 25 cents, Woods would publish the business cards of the city’s individual Black tradesmen. Larger concerns took full-page ads that Woods annotated with illustrations and photographs. The directory was a source of income for Allen Woods, a way to promote products for his advertisers, and a road map to Black-oriented businesses for consumers. For present-day New Orleanians, it is a window into the environs, demographics, character, and community spirit of our fore parents in the l9l0s...