ZerNona Stewart Black was at the center of the Black family, and she played an instrumental role in ensuring the success of Claude’s ministry at Mount Zion First Baptist Church. She was a loving partner, mother, grandmorther and an active participant in her congregation. She organized religious schooling and community projects, and managed the diverse staff members who worked at Mount Zion, including the ministers, deacons, and their wives.
ZerNona Steward Black was born in February 7, 1906 in Muskogee, Oklahoma. A few months after her birth, her mother suddenly passed away, creating an enduring hardship in her life. By observing her father’s operation of an outdoor movie theatre, ZerNona gained an early entrepreneurial spirit. She also developed a strict attention to detail, which helped her graduate from public schools in Muskogee and then attend Emerson College in Boston, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in speech and education. ZerNona also pursued graduate studies at University of Colorado, Indiana University, Our Lady of the Lake University, and Trinity University.
While at Langston College, ZerNona headed the drama department and taught leadership development skills in addition to her normal cirriculum of speech and debate. In the early 1940s, she moved to San Antonio to accept a position running the San Antonio USO. There she met Reverend Claude Black Jr. By 1946, Claude and ZerNona had married. They lived together happily for nearly fifty-eight years.
Throughout her lifetime, ZerNona was recognized with many awards commending her service to the San Antonio community and beyond.