ZerNona Stewart Black was a person who pursued her goals with energy, all throughout her life. After completing a YWCA-USO course in New York City and field training at the USO office in El Paso, Texas, (then) ZerNona Stewart arrived in San Antonio in 1943. Shortly thereafter, she began her new position on July 5th of the same year, as assistant at the YWCA-USO at 112 Sycamore Street.
In the book, Grandpa Was a Preacher: A Letter to my Grandson (by Claude W. Black, Jr. with Taj I. Matthews, Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse, 2007), Reverend Black reveals his impression of ZerNona's qualities when first meeting her at the USO:
She told me that she had always set high goals for herself and felt the need to do more for others. I believed her...She was a go-getter. (p. 53)
The Young Womens Christian Association (YWCA) was instrumental in the formation of United Service Organization clubs, or USOs, all over the United States. The USO club was formed to support the morale of military personnel and their families during the Second World War. As a reflection of the times, USO clubs were racially segregated (or not), based on the practice of local communities. The Sycamore Street USO was segregated, based on the Jim Crow practices in San Antonio at the time.
Later, ZerNona Stewart would become Director of the club. Articles about her work and photographs of club programs and events appeared regularly in one of the local African American newspapers of the time, the San Antonio Register. Again, from the book, Grandpa Was A Preacher, Reverend Black talks about ZerNona's work at the USO:
In my opinion, her leadership of the USO was outstanding. ZerNona had the ability to motivate those young people. She had created successful programs, provided job training, and improved the overall services that Colored USOs offered. (p. 51)It was in 1946 that ZerNona Stewart and Claude W. Black, Jr. would be married. I will share more on ZerNona Stewart Black's background and life in future posts.