Imagine a beautiful sunny day in Austin Texas enjoying a photo walk in the Historic Clarksville District. Have you visited this area of town lately?
As a native Austinite, I have visited Clarksville on several occasions but not to specifically become aware of, or to learn about the Black community that once thrived right here in my backyard.
The History of Clarksville
During the photo walk, you are surrounded by a great story of our local history.
Charles Clark founded Clarksville in 1871. Clarksville is the oldest surviving freedom-town ‒ the original post-civil war settlement founded by former Black slaves west of the Mississippi river.
The historic district was inducted into the National Register of Historic Places in 1976 in recognition of its unique and valuable history.
At least six communities of emancipated slaves existed around Austin including Wheatville (founded by celebrated Austin black leader Rev. Jacob Fontaine, Pleasant Hill, and Clarksville. In 1968 Clarksville residents unsuccessfully protested a state and local plan to build a highway along the Missouri Pacific Railroad, which extended along the western boundary of Clarksville. The completed Mopac Expressway sliced right through the community, forcing 33 families to leave.
For more information, visit
Hezikiah Haskell House
You have to visit the Hezikiah Haskell House when you are touring Clarksville. Kye and Catherine raised their family in the house and as their family grew, they added on two additions at the back, neither of which remain. However there is a garden now in the backyard that is part of the Clarksville Community gardens.
The Hezikiah Haskell House represents the kind of house that early Clarksville settlers built. It is a Cumberland-style, single wall construction home with double separated front doors. The two doors allowed two families to live in the house, an arrangement that was commonplace during Clarksville’s early years since money was very scarce.
The house sits on its original location and maintains a high degree of physical integrity. Its exterior is unpainted board and batten, its roof is of rough-hewn cedar shingle shakes. Its initial floor plan is unaltered. A few of the original windows and some of the square nails used for construction remain.
Visit http://www.historicclarksville.org/haskellHouse.htm for more information about this historical site.
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Damita Miller-Shanklin, Ujima Magazine
Photos: Ujima Magazine