Claude and Zernona Black used their resources and political influence to improve their community in San Antonio. The Blacks gained prominence in San Antonio’s East Side, which has historically been home to the city’s African American community. Reverend and Mrs. Black used their leadership in the Mount Zion Baptist Church to address the specific needs of San Antonio’s black citizens through a range of community projects. In the midst of Lyndon Baines Johnson’s War on Poverty, for example, the Black’s worked to provide opportunities for economic, health, and educational improvement in San Antonio.
While Claude and ZerNona certainly would have been considered a power couple, ZerNona was a powerful woman and community leader in her own right. Her community efforts centered on issues affecting African Americans. Her major accomplishments include her work with the YWCA-USO, a project for black service members and their families and Health Incorporated, a day center for senior citizens. ZerNona’s focus on black families within the San Antonio community complimented her husband’s civil rights work by ensuring all members of their community were cared for and had the ability to find their own voice.
Claude Black based his political advocacy on his faith. He got his start early as a youth member of the N.A.A.C.P. He first connected his faith to his political advocacy in 1946 while serving as a minister at a church in Corpus Christi when he campaigned to repair a ragged and unsafe bridge near the church. He returned to San Antonio in 1949 and continued his political advocacy on issues ranging from civil rights to housing. Eventually he connected with other key community leaders in San Antonio such as G.J Sutton, Albert Pena, and Henry B. Gonzalez.
Claude and ZerNona fought for internal advocacy to improve quality of life for a neglected section of San Antonio’s population. They provided leadership and resources to address the unique needs of their community and shape a more equal San Antonio.