She is a retired principal from the Webster Parish School System and still lives on the same street in Minden in which she grew up.
Elena Black is a woman of service, living a simple life in a small, two-bedroom home. She is also a woman with a strong work ethic. Growing up in a time when a woman’s place was in the home, she learned her work ethic from her parents who raised five children in the house next door.
“My mother (C.L. Hamilton) was not one who stayed at home,” she said. “She worked at J.L. Jones in the cafeteria for a little while, and then she worked at the Louisiana Army Ammunition Plant for 40 years. Even at that, when she came home, she was a seamstress. I always admired her because she came home when she got off work, put the food on the stove and she would sew until late at night.”
Going to school in the 1970s was difficult as the idea of integration had not truly taken hold in Minden.
“I do remember my seventh grade year, I went to Lowe Junior High, and there were probably no more than eight to 10 blacks that attended Lowe,” she said. “I remember those struggles, because we were there to try to promote integration, but we were still quite segregated. It was very hard, because back then integration was not so much accepted.”
She says the system still forced them to ride in the back of the bus until the law made it illegal.
Zoning at that time was a huge issue as it was a way to force integration. She says during that period, blacks went to white schools, but whites were not forced to attend black schools.
“I remember one of the marches that they did because we had to go to Minden High but none of them went to Webster,” she said, recalling Webster students conducted the march.
A 1973 graduate of Minden High School, she is still just as devoted to her alma mater as the day she graduated, she said, adding that some of her best friends today are white people she graduated with.
She got her teaching degree with a specialty in home economics, inspired by her home economics teacher, Truvesta Johnson, whom she also bought her house from. She attributes so much of her career to a few people who helped her along the way.
“She was a big influence on me, and I sat in this house many nights until three or four o’clock in the morning sewing with her,” she said. “I enjoyed sewing, drawing and designing. I actually went to school and got my degree in fashion merchandising. I was planning to go to New York and be a big fashion designer, and at that time it was just me. I didn’t think family. I had a child and got married.”
After obtaining her teaching certification, she taught home economics and math before taking a principal’s position for the last roughly 20 years of her career.
“Mr. West Moses became my principal and Gloria Flournoy, and both of which I served as their administrative assistant,” she said. “I worked with them very closely, and I attribute my learning so much about education to those two people. Mrs. Mary Butler was a teacher and she just wouldn’t let it go.”
She says they pushed her until she finally relented to taking a principal’s position. She had a fear of losing close interaction with the students, but after becoming an administrator, she says she didn’t. During her career, she says she did not see color. They were all her students.
Education has changed so much over the years, she says: positive in that more students than ever have an opportunity to gain an education; negative in that the state has put so many requirements on the teachers, forcing them to teach to so many standardized tests.
She now works with children and youth, among the many other activities, at St. Rest Baptist Church. Last year, she was the director for the SMILE summer program which helps younger students retain what they learned the last school year.
Black has two daughters, Tanika Black, who is a nurse and counselor, and Nina Hardman who is in human resources at Murphy Oil. She has been blessed with five grandchildren.