Claude and ZerNona Black Papers, 1890-2009

Identity elements

Reference code

US TxSaT SC.001

Name and location of repository

Level of description



Claude and ZerNona Black Papers, 1890-2009


  • 1890 - 2009 (predominant 1940-2008) (Creation)


100.00 cubic feet

Name of creator


Biographical history

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.

Name of creator


Biographical history

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.

Content and structure elements

Scope and content

The personal papers of the Reverend Claude William Black, Jr. and his wife, ZerNona Stewart Black document their civil rights, community activism, and Baptist ministry activities, predominantly from the 1940s through 2008, in San Antonio, TX.

The collection spans the early 1900s through 2009 (the year of Reverend Black’s death). The bulk of the papers are relevant to Reverend Black’s activities, with approximately one-fifth related to ZerNona Black’s endeavors. Included are: audiocassettes, reel tape, videocassettes and movie film of events, sermons, and addresses; handwritten sermons and accompanying notes; annotated periodicals, including rare and specialized journals such The Crisis (NAACP), African Forum, and other African American publications; scrapbooks of memorabilia, ephemera and news clippings, about San Antonio and national events; communications with local and national leaders, including A. Philip Randolph and Martin Luther King, Jr.; photographs and slides of community and personal events; awards, certificates and governmental proclamations; appointment books and daybooks; extensive records related to activities of Mount Zion First Baptist Church and additional organizations.

Series 1: Mount Zion First Baptist Church Records, 1940-2007

The collection includes detailed records of the Mount Zion First Baptist Church kept over 50 years of Reverend Black's ministry there. These records include financial, annual meeting notes and reports, details on mission activities, event brochures, funeral programs, Sunday service pamphlets, The Messenger newsletter, scrapbooks, photographs, and published histories of the church.

Series 2: Personal and Family Records

Personal files primarily include records about family members and friends, assorted family letters and correspondences, and daily planners and notes.

Series 3: Local Government Materials

The local government records contain the campaign and city council-related materials of Reverend Black from 1965 through 1977. The overall range of materials spans 1950 through 2008, and includes documents that originate from local government offices, including the City of San Antonio and Bexar County; documents that pertain to the the years of 1973-1977, when Reverend Black served as a member of City Council, and as the city's first African American Mayor Pro Tem; documents that relate to issues of local government that originate from a variety of sources, such as neighborhood organizations and coalitions; information from individual politicians; and documents from bodies with close local government affiliation, such as the City Public Service Board. The documents reveal Reverend Black's long interaction with government as an individual and as a minister.

Series 4: Organizations

Extensive files by and about organizations reflect the Blacks' participation and interest in local and national programs. Included are the records of the Mount Zion First Baptist Church-affiliated organizations of Project F.R.E.E., Health, Inc, and New Community Builders, Inc..; records related to organizations and conferences such as the Baptist Minsters Union, San Antonio Mothers Organization, Economic Opportunities Development Corporation (EODC), the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), The American Baptist Convention, and the 1966 White House civil rights conference, To Fulfill These Rights.

Series 5: Writings

The writings are primarily dated and undated sermons, sermon notes, talks and editorials by Reverend Black, with a small quantity of talks and notes by ZerNona Stewart Black.

Series 6: Correspondence and Letters

The records include extensive electronic correspondence with Morris T. Johnson from 1966 through 2007, carried out mostly via email or fax. The conversations cover issues of the day and scriptural topics, most often in the tone of lively debate. Mr. Johnson has resided in Los Angeles, California for many years, served in World War II as one of the Tuskegee Airmen, and graduated from Harvard University Law School.

The series also includes letters from Maury Maverick, Jr., Apolonio "Arnold" Flores, and extensive personal, professional and political communications.

Series 7: Printed Materials

The series includes extensive subject files that include reports, newlsetters, newsclippings from local (many documenting the Blacks' activities) and national newspapers; magazines and journals, many of which are annotated or rare; books; awards, proclamations, and certificates; and ephemera, such as local event brochures, directories, and calendars, The topics covered by the files reflect Reverend Black's research interests throughout the years: education, poverty, housing, class relations, race relations, politics and political figures, aging, the health system, the economy, jobs, homosexuality, human relationships, religion, theology, scriptural interpretation, incarceration, the death penalty, the Middle East, and the African American experience.

The newspapers included in the series are primarily local African American issues, such as the San Antonio Register, SNAP News, the San Antonio Informer, and the San Antonio Observer.

Series 8: Scrapbooks

The series includes eleven scrapbooks, the bulk of which document the local government activity and interests of Reverend Black from the 1960s to the 1970s.

Series 9: Visual Materials

The series include photographs, slides, photographic albums and scrapbooks, and guestbooks, primarily created by ZerNona Stewart Black.

Series 10: Audio Recordings

The series includes twenty-two open reel tapes of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) radio broadcast series, Martin Luther King Speaks. It also includes sermons, talks, radio talks, and church and community events and conferences recorded on open reel tape and audiocassettes, many of which include Reverend Black as a participant.

Series 11: Audiovisual Recordings

The series contains videocassettes of talks and recorded church and community events, many of which include Reverend Black as a participant. Also included are three reels of 16mm movie film (no soundtrack), in the "home movie" genre, which document the Blacks' travels through the United States, Europe, and the Middle East, as well as local family and community occasions. One movie film includes a brief appearance by the civil rights leader A. Philip Randolph.

Series 12: Computer Disks

The series includes one hundred and fifty 3.5-inch floppy disks, unprocessed; eighty 5.25-inch floppy disks, unprocessed.

Series 13: Realia

The series includes a Grundig Niki portable open reel tape recorder (two track, 3 3/4 ips recording) and assorted personal and political memorabilia.

System of arrangement

Series 1: Mount Zion First Baptist Church Records, 1940-2007

Sub-series 1: Administrative Records; Sub-series 2: Printed Materials; Sub-series 3: Scrapbooks and Photo Albums; Sub-series 4: Blueprints

Series 2: Personal and Family Records

Sub-series 1: ZerNona Stewart Black; Sub-series 2: Claude W. Black, Jr.; Sub-series 3: Daily Agenda and Personal Directories;  Sub-series 4: Travel Records; Sub-series 5: Family Members

Series 3: Local Government Materials

Series 4: Organizations

Sub-series 1: Organizations Affiliated with Mount Zion First Baptist Church; Sub-series 2: Educational Organizations and Institutions; Sub-series 3: Local and Texas Religious Organizations; Sub-series 4: National and Regional Religious Organizations; Sub-series 5: Churches; Sub-series 6: Assorted Organizations, Conferences, and Meetings

Series 5: Writings

Sub-series 1: Writings by Claude W. Black, Jr.: Sermons; Sub-series 2: Writings by Claude W. Black, Jr.: Talks, Editorials, and Commentary; Sub-series 3: Writings by ZerNona Stewart Black

Series 6: Correspondence and Letters

Sub-series 1: Correspondence: Morris T. Johnson; Sub-series 2: Assorted Letters and Correspondence

Series 7: Printed Materials

Sub-series 1: [deaccessioned]; Sub-series 2: Reports, Papers, and Newsletters; Sub-series 3: Magazines and Journals; Sub-series 4: Newsclippings; Sub-series 5: Books; Sub-series 6: Music, Plays, and Educational Materials; Sub-series 7: Awards, Proclamations, and Certificates; Sub-series 8: Ephemera; Sub-series 9: Newspapers; Sub-series 10: Prints, Drawings, and Posters

Series 8: Scrapbooks

Series 9: Visual Materials

Sub-series 1: Photographs; Sub-series 2: Slides and Negatives; Sub-series 3: Photographic Albums, Scrapbooks and Guest Books

Series 10: Audio Recordings

Sub-series 1: Martin Luther King Speaks; Sub-series 2: Audio Recordings with Reverend Black - Open reel tapes; Sub-Series 3: Audio Recordings with Reverend Black - Audiocassettes; Sub-series 4: Mount Zion First Baptist Church Audio Recordings; Sub-series 5: Convention and Meeting Recordings - Audiocassettes; Sub-series 6: Convention and Meeting Recordings - Open reel tapes; Sub-Series 7: Assorted Recordings;  Sub-Series 8: Industrial Area Foundation Recordings;  Sub-Series 9: Fourth International Congress on Religion, the [Visual] Arts, Architecture, and the Environment Recordings;

Series 11: Video Recordings

Sub-series 1: Videocassettes; Sub-series 2: Movie Film, circa 1950-1969; Sub-Series 3: Digital Optical Media

Series 12: Computer Disks

Series 13: Realia

Conditions of access and use elements

Conditions governing access

Access: The collection is housed in Special Collections and Archives, Elizabeth Huth Coates Library and is open for research during open hours or by appointment.

Physical access

Technical access

Conditions governing reproduction

Copyright: Trinity University holds the intellectual property rights for the original materials in the collection. It is the responsibility of researchers to comply with federal copyright regulations and laws for fair use and in the cases of third party copyright.  Please contact Special Collections and Archives or the third party copyright holder for permission to publish, quote, or reproduce materials from the collection.

Use Restrictions: Publication of biographical research obtained from this collection is restricted for five (5) years from October 2011, or three (3) years from the availability of the finding aid, whichever comes first. During the time of restriction, however, the collection may be used by anyone, following initial accessioning and processing.

Languages of the material

  • English

Scripts of the material

Language and script notes

Finding aids

Acquisition and appraisal elements

Custodial history

Immediate source of acquisition

Acquired: 10/01/2011.

Source: Taj I. Matthews, grandson to Reverend and Mrs. Claude W. Black, Jr..


Appraisal, destruction and scheduling information


Related materials elements

Existence and location of originals

Existence and location of copies

Related archival materials

Many items from this collection are available online through the Coates Library Digital Collections:

Related publications:

Black, Claude W., Jr., & Matthews, Taj I. (2007). Grandpa was a preacher: a letter to my grandson. Bloomington, IN : Author House.
In the Coates Library catalog at

Related descriptions

Notes element

Specialized notes

  • Citation: [item identification], Claude and ZerNona Black Papers, 1890-2009, Elizabeth Huth Coates Library, Trinity University.

Alternative identifier(s)

Description control element

Rules or conventions

Sources used

Archivist's note

Collection processed and finding aid created by Donna Morales Guerra, Project Archivist, 2012. Collection was reprocessed by Colleen Hoelscher in 2020 to remove non-archival materials. A copy of the original finding aid is available upon request.

Access points

Accession area