Blair Hawkins | Charlottesville, Virginia |

History of Charlottesville Chamber of Commerce. Friday June 9, 2017. (facebook post)

Ignorance is bliss while knowledge carries responsibility. Chamber of Commerce President Tim Hulbert was on WCHV radio this morning. He strongly and passionately condemned the Klan rally coming to Charlottesville July 8.

Wait a minute. Academy award nomination.

Charlottesville Chamber of Commerce was established as a private club 1895 to promote private sector business development in both the city and county (page 300). The racial agenda began 1913, the year today's C of C claims as founding date. The previous year 1912 saw the first state-wide referendum that approved the option to switch to Commission government. A 1920 City referendum mandated the switch to At-Large / Commission / Direct Democracy / Corporate Governing Board. That same year C of C had 410 members and joined the national organization.

But there was no knowledge or opposition to the Commission government as being segregationist or dangerous? Oh yes there was. In 1922 the elected Mayor B.E. Wheeler "obtained a court order and tried to prevent the new commissioners from taking over, but eventually gave in. Within a week the Chamber of Commerce came out strongly in favor of zoning, evidently an area of basic disagreement." (page 380)

The purpose of the first zoning was Jim Crow residential segregation. That's why 6th St. SE was segregated with whites living on one side and blacks on the other side of the same street. E.G. Haden, mayor 1908 to 1912 and 1916 to 1920, also opposed the direct democracy government. The change was slow because of substantial opposition. Ironically some said real estate was the ulterior motive for the business-like government. Today we know this change enabled the widespread urban renewal stealing of real estate from the voting minorities stripped of representation on Council.

The Chamber's other great claim to fame was Monticello Hotel and a naming contest with $40 in prizes in 1924, same year as Lee statue and At-Large began. The legacy of C of C is modern contempt for business and prosperity, almost hatred. Because the wealth broke up families and destroyed communities. There's nostalgia for the good old days because, in some respects, they really were better before the Chamber of Commerce.

Next time the Chamber condemns the Klan, maybe the Chamber can cite some actions to show sincerity. Talk is cheap.

Blair Hawkins | Charlottesville, Virginia | | Résumé | Top