Years ago, I discovered the value of the information presented in a phonebook. While working on my next novel, I rediscovered the value when I found an 1865 San Francisco directory. Of course, it didn’t include phone numbers, but it did include residents’ names and addresses. It also included the resident’s job and annotated whether the person was colored. The latter was helpful in my search for an 1865 San Francisco hotel that served African-Americans.
In the 1865 directory, I noticed the name Barney Fletcher several times associated with colored organizations in the yellow pages. His name kept popping up. According to the directory, Barney Fletcher was an African-American janitor at San Francisco’s Exchange Building in the 1860s. He also served as a trustee at the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, Vice-President of the California Contraband Relief Association, Secretary of (Masonic) Hannibal Lodge No. 1, Secretary of the Ladies Union Beneficial Society (Colored; aid sick members), and President of the Young Men’s Union Beneficial Society (Col’d; aid sick members).
The AME Church has long been associated with the 19th century abolitionist movement and the name “Contraband Relief Association” speaks for itself. I wondered if Barney Fletcher was a black abolitionist. I needed to look beyond the directory. Looking at the names of Barney’s fellow organization officers, I discovered that Barney ran with the San Francisco’s prominent black abolitionists, including
Barney also served briefly as the pastor of the AME church in Oakland in 1862. One report indicated that Barney was associated with the Sacramento Zouaves formed in 1863 in San Francisco; there first public event occurred on January 1, 1868 in San Francisco. Barney actively sought to improve the education of black children and participated in California’s colored conventions.
One could argue that Barney Fletcher was one of San Francisco’s prominent black activists during the city’s pioneer days. One can only wonder what else Barney would have accomplished if equal opportunities existed in California in the 19th century. --Mig
 Phonebook: a relic of the 20th century that contained names, addresses, and telephone numbers that was printed annually by telecommunication companies and distributed to their customers.
 Yellow pages: a section of antiquated phonebooks printed on yellow paper that listed businesses and other organizations.
 The San Francisco Directory 1865, pp. 179, 599, 606, 609, 611, and 613 (accessed May 22, 2022, https://archive.org/details/sanfranciscodire1865lang/page/179/mode/2up).
 The Poetical Works of James Madison Bell, p. 8, 1901, reaffirmed Bell’s association with Barnet Fletcher while Bell was in San Francisco between 1860 and 1865.
 Guy Washington, California Pioneers of African Descent, National Park Service, December 17, 2010, pp. 74-75 (accessed May 22, 2022, https://www.nps.gov/npgallery/GetAsset/a8faefce-d534-4728-9c47-0a4f291627af).
 The San Francisco Directory 1865, p. 12 presents an estimated “total permanent population of 110,100, of which 3,000 were Chinese and 2,100 (2%) were colored.
 Michael Stolp-Smith, “Saint Andrews African Methodist Episcopal Church, Sacramento, California,” March 16, 2010 (accessed 5/23/2022, https://www.blackpast.org/african-american-history/st-andrews-ame-church-1850).
 African American Citywide Historic Context Statement (draft), prepared for the City and County of San Francisco, January2016, p. 34 (accessed May 23, 2022, https://default.sfplanning.org/Preservation/african_american_HCS/AfricanAmericanHistoricContextStatement_Draft_Jan2016.pdf).
 Martha C. Taylor, From Labor to Reward, pp. 8 and 18, June 24, 2016 (accessed May 23, 2022, books.google.com).
 William Burg, “Black History in Sacramento Part 1” [video: 48:07-49:30], July 15, 2020 (accessed May 23, 2022, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TaDXlvTR44s).
 “Call for a State Convention of the Colored Citizens of California,” The Elevator, July 14, 1865, p. 2 (accessed June 21, 2022, https://cdnc.ucr.edu/?a=d&d=EL18650714.2.8&e=-------en--20--1--txt-txIN--------1).