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Civil rights activist

Black, Claude W. (Claude William), 1916-2009

  • LCNAF no2012042284
  • Person
  • 1916-2009

Claude William Black, Jr. (November 28, 1916- March 13, 2009) was one of San Antonio’s most indefatigable advocates for the equal rights of African Americans.  He graduated in 1937 from  Morehouse College in Atlanta, GA, and earned a Master Of Divinity degree at Andover Newton Theological School, Newton, MA, in 1943.  He attended Trinity University in the early 1970s in order to complete graduate coursework in the Urban Studies department. Records documenting the following aspects of Reverend Black's life are included in the collection.

Ministry:  In 1949, Reverend Black became pastor  of the Mount Zion First Baptist Church, and served there for 49 years until 1998, after which he continued as Pastor Emeritus. He returned as interim pastor from 2005-2008.  He created service organizations for the elderly, the poor, and the hungry, and started the first African American, church-owned credit union, Mount Zion Federal Credit Union.  In the 1950s and 1960s, Reverend Black and other African American community members staged peaceful, civil rights protests that led to integration of lunch counters at local motels and at Joske's Department Store, theaters, parks and other public spaces. Reverend Black belonged to multiple religious organizations, such as the San Antonio Council of Churches and the San Antonio Ministers Association. One of these, the Baptist Ministers Union, was very active in church-related civil rights actions, one of which the scrapbook about the Billy Graham Evangelistic Rally (July 25, 1958) fully documents.

Politics:  From 1973—1977, Black was elected City Councilman for the City of San Antonio and was appointed as the first African American Mayor Pro Tem.  He was invited by President Lyndon Baines Johnson in 1966 to participate in the White House Conference on Civil Rights and by President William Jefferson Clinton in 1995 to participate in the White House Conference on Aging. The scrapbooks in the collection are especially focused on Reverend Black's political campaigns and concerns.

Community:  Black served on boards and committees with numerous community organizations, particularly those that would benefit the traditionally African American East side of the city.  He was often invited to speak at civic and ceremonial events, as can be seen through the letters of invitation in the correspondence and letters section. Reverend Black received certificates and proclamations in his honor throughout his life that acknowledge his prolific activity.

Black, ZerNona (ZerNona Stewart), 1906-2005

  • LCNAF no2012056489
  • Person
  • 1906-2005

ZerNona Stewart Black (February 7, 1906-January 24, 2005) worked extensively with service organizations, with her husband in civil rights activities, and fulfilled the many duties of a pastor’s wife. Originally from Muskogee, Oklahoma, a YWCA assignment in 1943 brought her to San Antonio to run the local Negro USO Club. She met Reverend Black shortly after her arrival, and they married in 1946. She was an educator, teaching college courses and Mount Zion First Baptist Church bible school programs. Mrs. Black received a speech and education degree from Emerson College, Boston, Massachusetts and later pursued graduate courses at various universities, including Trinity University. She taught at Langston College in Langston, OK, and at St. Philip’s College in San Antonio.

She co-founded Health, Inc., an elder daycare agency, as well as a local chapter of Jack and Jill, Inc., promoting programs for African American youth. She was Executive Director of the Eastside Senior Citizens Project, and helped to run Project F.R.E.E. (she kept the records of Project F.R.E.E. and Health, Inc., two church-affiliated organizations). She headed the church drama ministry and numerous church councils. She worked as a YWCA Chairman and as a volunteer and youth supervisor with the Guadalupe District Baptist Association. She received many honors and awards for her generous service to the church, seniors, women and mothers, children, and to the community at large.