Clarksville Under Threat
As Austin gradually expanded west, Clarksville ceased to be geographically isolated and soon found itself surrounded by more affluent white neighborhoods. Soon Clarksville residents and blacks living in other areas of West Austin were being pressured to relocate. In fact, the 1928 City of Austin Master Plan called for the establishment of a “black district” on the east side of town where the City fathers hoped to segregate Austin’s black citizens.
The city also pressured Clarksville residents to relocate by denying them the public services enjoyed by the surrounding neighborhoods, such as paved streets, sidewalks, street lighting, sewers and flood control measures. At the same time, because of governmental and banking discriminatory practices coupled with institutional racism, Clarksville residents struggled to maintain or improve their homes. Yet, despite all of the obstacles and pressures they faced, the hardy residents of Clarksville refused to move. They cherished their neighborhood and were determined to remain there despite the hardships they had to endure.
In 1971, the construction of the MoPac Expressway dealt a serious blow to Clarksville. Prior to MoPac’s construction, the community extended west beyond the Missouri and Pacific railroad tracks. But the new highway destroyed the homes located on that side as well as some homes east of the tracks. As a result, Clarksville lost nearly one-third of its homes, which caused the displacement of many Clarksville families. Fortunately, some families were able to find new homes in what remained of Clarksville, but many others had to relocate out of the community.
Then in the mid-70s, Clarksville faced the most serious threat to its existence after the City of Austin voted to construct a cross-town expressway that would run along 15th Street and Enfield Road and connect with MoPac. The plans called for a detour through Clarksville in order to destroy the neighborhood and force the last black families living in West Austin to move to East Austin, where Austin’s other minorities resided. However, the community fought back and with the assistance of then Congressman J. J. "Jake" Pickle derailed the expressway plans.
Preventing construction of the cross-town expressway only gave Clarksville a temporary reprieve however. The destructive plans of the City leaders were replaced by a more insidious threat in the form of speculators and developers – the gentrifiers – who dangled large sums of money in an attempt to convince long-time residents to abandon their community, their neighbors, their way of life and their history. However, Clarksville fought back. For example, in 1978 a group of community activists established the Clarksville Community Development Corporation (CCDC) in 1978, and with the help of federal grants and loans, the CCDC built and obtained through donations a number of homes that it rented to low and moderate income families. This was the start of the organization's affordable housing program.