Claude Black was born in San Antonio in 1916. He knew what it was like to live, grow, and attend public school in San Antonio before the Civil Rights movement. He can remember a time when blacks and whites lived separately. Children of different races did not attend the same schools, blacks could not eat in white restaurants, and many jobs were determined according to race. Public facilities such as water fountains, swimming pools, and even parks were separate.
Claude Black is very important to San Antonio’s history because he was an active member in the Civil Rights Movement during the 1950s and 60s. Black became a reverend after attending Newton Center, a seminary school, in Massachusetts. He returned to San Antonio with a new perspective on white people and a want for change (1). As a young man, he remembers being in line for a bus. Even thought he was the first in line for the bus he still had to wait until the white passenger boarded. By the time it came around to him, there were no more seats. He had to stand, which angered him. While standing a white passenger told him to step back. Blacks response was “I have gotten back as far as I intend to today” (2).
Black’s teenage experience “brought about a commitment to bring changes at the level of race” (3). He was a member of the Youth Council of the NAACP in the 1930’s. Until Martin Luther King, Black believed violence was the only way to bring about change (4). As a young minister back in his hometown, Black began his commitment to change.
Black was the president of the Baptist Minister’s Union. The group, teamed with the NAACP and CORE, organized and rallied people and other leaders to things that needed to be changed, such as public accommodations (5). He would appear before City Council to try to get ordinances passed, such as equal access to swimming pools or restaurants. The groups wanted to create publicity, using sit-ins and picket lines. Black was instrumental in organizing the desegregation of the restaurants in San Antonio.
Rev. Black was a minister of the Mt Zion Baptist Church for 49 years in East San Antonio. After success in the Civil Rights Movement, he became a City Council member for two terms in the 1970’s. He retired from his ministry in 1998 as a respected member of the community. He left a great legacy by using the pulpit to address civil rights
For an interview with Rev. Black, visit the Institute of Texan Culture website.
1,2,3,4,5 Rev. Claude Black interviewed by Sterlin Holmesly, San Antonio, May, 26, 1994, Institute of Texan Culture Library, San Antonio, Tx.