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Tue, 11.28.1916

Claude Black, Minister, and Activist born

Claude Black

*Claude Black was born on this date in 1916. He was a Black Baptist minister, activist, and politician.

Claude William Black, Jr. was born the son of the local Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, vice president Claude Sr. and housewife Cora in the then-segregated city of San Antonio, Texas. While attending Morehouse College in Atlanta to become a doctor, he was led to the ministry and attended Andover Newton Theological School.  From 1941 to 1943, he was pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Haverhill, Massachusetts. In 1946 he married ZerNona Black (for 59 years). 

From 1946 to 1949 at St. Matthew Baptist Church in Corpus Christi, Texas, and served as pastor of Mt. Zion First Baptist Church in San Antonio from 1949–1998. Black founded several community groups and the city's first Black credit union.  He also served as chairman of the Social Actions Committee with the National Baptist Convention and president of the Baptist Minister's Union of San Antonio.

Black was known throughout the South for his civil rights activism. Throughout the late 1950s and 1960s, he, State Representatives G. J. Sutton, and Harry Burns led and organized marches throughout the state. He challenged former Texas Governor Price Daniel, former San Antonio Mayor Walter McAllister, and the establishment for their unfair treatment of minorities in the city.   While addressing a city council meeting in 1952, he was ignored and called a "nigger" on the open microphone.  He became an associate of A. Philip Randolph, Martin Luther King Jr., Thurgood Marshall, Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., James L. Farmer, Jr., Ella Baker, and others. As a local ally to President Lyndon B. Johnson, Black was present for the White House Conference on Civil Rights in 1966.

He endured many threats to himself, his family, and even his church. A drive-by shooting occurred at his home, and his church burned in 1974 with no suspects being charged.  Black supported the efforts of the San Antonio SNCC after a massive demonstration against police brutality in downtown San Antonio and an armed attack on the SNCC office.  He allowed the use of the church for meetings of the San Antonio Committee to Free Angela Davis, SNCC, and Black Panther Party meetings.  He allowed members of both opportunities to raise funds at the church on Sunday. Rev. Black co-authored a city council resolution against selling the South African Krugerrand Gold Coin in December 1976, before Nelson Mandela was released from prison. He served four terms of the San Antonio City Council 1973-1978 and became the city's first Black Mayor Pro Tem.

The city of San Antonio has a street, shopping plaza, and community center named in honor of Black. The city of San Antonio created the Rev. Claude and ZerNona Black Scholarship Endowment Fund. Black also served on the Advisory Council of Wayland Baptist University's San Antonio campus; the campus named its award given to the outstanding student earning the Master of Christian Ministry degree in his honor.  On November 30, 2006, Black was honored with an extravagant 90th Birthday gala. Claude Black died on March 13, 2009, in San Antonio, Texas, following a lengthy illness.


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