State in southeastern USA, bordered to the north by Virginia, to the west and northwest by Tennessee, to the south by Georgia and South Carolina, and to the east by the Atlantic Ocean; area 126,161 sq km/48,711 52,650 sq mi; population (2010) 9,535,483; capital Raleigh. Named after Charles I of England, its nickname the Old North State refers to the division of Carolina into north and south in 1712; the Tar Heel State comes from a remark made by troops during the Civil War that tar – one of North Carolina's first products – should be put on the heels of deserters to make them ‘stick better in the next fight’. North Carolina varies from flat-lying coastal plain with marshes, bogs, and barrier islands, to the rugged Great Smoky Mountains in the west, and the state is heavily forested. The natural setting, along with growing technology industries and thriving financial centres such as Charlotte, have made the state one of the USA's most desirable places to live. It also supports a strong manufacturing sector, producing textiles, furniture, chemicals, and machinery. Other cities include Greensboro, Winston-Salem, Durham, and Fayetteville. North Carolina was home to many American Indian peoples, including the Cherokee, Algonquin, and Siouan-speaking tribes. Explored by Italian navigator Giovanni da Verrazano in 1524 and settled by immigrants from Virginia in the 1650s, North Carolina was one of the original Thirteen Colonies. During the Civil War it joined the Confederacy. North Carolina ratified the US Constitution in 1789 to become the 12th state to join the Union.
Physical North Carolina comprises three geographical regions: the Coastal Plain, the Piedmont, and the Blue Ridge. The Coastal Plain is a low-lying region of sand and clay sediments and marine sedimentary rocks, which thicken eastward toward the Atlantic coast and on to the continental shelf. The western boundary where the Coastal Plain meets the Piedmont is the Fall Line, which approximately corresponds to Interstate 95, except in the south, where the Coastal Plain extends further inland. Here, the Sand Hills reach elevations of 180 m/600 ft. The rocks of the southern Coastal Plain are primarily limestone. Environments of the Coastal Plain include wetlands, maritime forest, bogs, and estuaries.
Once longleaf pine savannah, the region's forests have largely been replaced by loblolly pine and hardwoods. Agriculture here is devoted primarily to livestock. Mattamuskeet Lake and Lake Phelps are the state's two largest natural lakes. The Chowan, Roanoke, Pamlico, and Neuse rivers empty into Pamlico and Albemarle sounds, which are protected by barrier islands, such as the Outer Banks and Cape Hattaras. The Cape Fear River flows east then south to empty into the Atlantic near Bald Head Island.
Further inland lies the Piedmont region, which comprises the central portion of the state. Rivers crossing the Fall Line on its eastern border, where elevations drop to the Coastal Plain, are used to generate hydroelectric power. The Piedmont consists of a series of northeast–southwest geological belts of metamorphic and igneous rocks, creating a topography of long ridges and rolling hills and valleys. Slate belts, such as the Eastern and Carolina slate belts, alternate with belts of granite, gneiss, and schist. Many minerals are mined in this region, which was a primary source of gold before the California gold rush. Hardwood and mixed pine forest of the Piedmont contribute to North Carolina's furniture industry. Mountains include South Mountain and the Uwharrie Mountains.
The western tenth of North Carolina is the Blue Ridge, a rugged mountainous region with elevations 600–1,800 m/2,000–6,000 ft. Metamorphic and igneous rocks range in age from 500 million to 1 billion years old and have been heavily folded, faulted, and subjected to great pressure. Minerals such as feldspar and mica are mined in this region. The Blue Ridge includes the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, which the state shares with Tennessee; the Blue Ridge Parkway; Blowing Rock (1,200 m/4,000 ft); and numerous mountains over 1,800 m/6,000 ft, including Mount Mitchell, at 2,037 m/6,683 ft the highest point in the eastern USA. Rivers in the province include the French Broad River and the Nantahala, as well as numerous artificial lakes and reservoirs. The area is heavily forested, despite logging in the early 1900s.
Features American Indian sites in North Carolina include temples at Town Creek Indian Mounds near Mount Gilead, and a historic American Indian post at Murphy. Murphy is also home to the Cherokee County Historical Museum. Part of the Appalachian Trail passes through North Carolina.
Fort Raleigh National Historic Site, Roanoke Island, marks where the English, under Walter Raleigh, first attempted to settle the New World in the late 16th century. In Elizabeth City the Museum of the Albemarle has information about the colonial history of the region.
Edenton was the first permanent settlement in North Carolina, dating from 1660, and was formerly the capital of the North Carolina colony and home of the royal governors. During the pre-Revolutionary period, Edenton had its own Edenton Tea Party in 1774, following the model of the Boston Tea Party.
The harbour town of Bath was founded in 1705 and has many historic buildings. Halifax was a historic centre during the American Revolution and an important Roanoke River port and trading centre. North Carolina's Fourth Provincial Congress met in Halifax on 12 April 1776 and adopted a document later known as the Halifax Resolves, the first official action by an entire colony recommending independence from England. North Carolina's colonial ethnic heritage is clearly seen in Swiss New Bern, settled in 1710, and in 18th-century buildings in the Moravian town of Old Salem, founded in 1766.
Somerset Plantation in Creswell, Washington County, is a restored plantation. One of the largest plantation holdings in the south, Stagville features original slave quarters at Horton Grove and is now a centre for black American cultural history.
More's Creek National Battlefield preserves the site of a February 1776 American victory in the American Revolution, shortly after which North Carolina declared independence from the British. During the Civil War, over 20 battles took place in North Carolina. Fort Fisher was the last major stronghold of the Confederacy and was not captured until several Union attempts in January 1865. Fort Macon was the site of a major Civil War battle, when Union troops gained complete control of the North Carolina coast. One of the most important Civil War sites in North Carolina is Durham's Bennett Place State Historic Site, marking General Joseph Johnston's surrender of the last Confederate force active in the East. The historic town of Salisbury also has many Civil War sites, including the Salisbury Confederate Prison site where an estimated 11,700 soldiers died.
After the war, black American businesses in Durham flourished, including the oldest and largest black American insurance company in the USA, North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company, founded in 1898. This and other successful black-run entrepreneurial enterprises were based on Parrish Street, which became known as ‘Black Wall Street’. Wilmington also has a number of historic black American sites, including Bellamy Mansion, dating from around 1861 with restored slave quarters, and the oldest black American church in North Carolina, St Mark's Episcopal Church.
Kill Devil Hills, near Kitty Hawk on the Outer Banks, is the site of the Wright brothers' first powered flight in 1903, and there is a national memorial to them there. The Outer Banks, a string of islands totalling some 100 mi/161 km off the coast of North Carolina, is a major summer tourist destination. Hot Springs is a historic mountain spa resort, where many prominent North Carolinians had summerhouses or owned hotels. The birthplace of US president Andrew Johnson is in Raleigh.
More recent historic sites in North Carolina include poet Carl Sandburg's former home at Flat Rock, a National Historic Site; the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, a vast mansion designed and built by George W Vanderbilt; and the North Carolina Transportation Museum in Spencer, with rare vintage cars.
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park on the North Carolina–Tennessee border is one of North Carolina's foremost natural attractions. The Blue Ridge Parkway, Shenandoah National Park, and Mount Mitchell are all known for spectacular views. Grandfather Mountain, one of the best-known landmarks of the Blue Ridge, is popular in the spring, when wild flowers are abundant. Waterfalls are a common feature of North Carolina's mountains, and many freeze in the winter to spectacular visual effect. Pisgah, Nantahala, Uwharrie, and Croatan national forests cover 4,360 sq km/1,876 sq mi and are important wildlife preservation areas.
Culture Many North Carolinians have Scots-Irish, Swiss, Highland Scots, German, or Welsh roots, and the population is almost one-quarter black American. There is an Appalachian Cultural Museum in Boone. The Rankin Museum of American and Natural History in Ellerbe details the cultures of early American life and contains many American Indian artefacts.
North Carolina is important nationally in higher education. The University of North Carolina dates from 1789 and the Chapel Hill (1795) campus is especially renowned. Duke University, Durham, is one of the most famous private universities in the USA.
The North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, was the first state-funded museum in the USA. The Hickory Museum of Art has an important collection of US ceramics, for which North Carolina is well known, including regional folk art and North Carolina's famous face jugs. The historic Reynolda House art collection includes works from the Hudson River School. The Cameron Art Museum (formerly the St John's Museum of Art) in Wilmington is dedicated to the regional art of North Carolina.
North Carolina has a rich music tradition, ranging from high to popular culture. Raleigh is home to a world-class symphony orchestra with an extensive education programme, including an annual youth concerto competition. The American Dance Festival, including modern dance performances and classes, takes place annually in June and July at Duke University. A major arts festival, known as the Appalachian Summer Festival, is held annually at Appalachian State University in Boone, staging a range of musical performances.
Bluegrass, blues, and folk music are extremely popular, and there are many small annual festivals of these genres. Ole Time Fiddler's and Bluegrass Festival, which began in 1924 in the small rural community of Union Grove, is held every year to preserve the tradition of old-time and bluegrass music. The North Carolina International Folk Festival, known as Folkmoot, takes place annually in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and features a wide variety of performances and cultural influences.
The Southern Folklife Collection is one of the largest archives of Southern music traditions, based at the University of North Carolina. North Carolina Folklore Society preserves the collected songs, stories, customs, and superstitions of the state in the Frank C Brown Collection of North Carolina Folklore, the most extensive collection of any state's folklore.
North Carolina is famous for its wide variety of golf courses. The Carolina Panthers, a National Football League team representing both North and South Carolina, are based in Charlotte. North Carolina is also known for its many minor league sports teams, including the Durham Bulls baseball team, upon which the 1988 film Bull Durham was based.
GovernmentNorth Carolina's state constitution North Carolina has had three constitutions, 1776, 1868, and 1971. The latter is still used today. The constitution of 1776 was particularly suspicious of executive power: the governor was elected by the legislature and limited only to a one-year term. The constitution of 1868 was more progressive, giving more power to the governor, who would be popularly elected, and abolishing the requirement of land ownership for suffrage.
Structure of state government North Carolina's legislature is made up of two houses, a 50-member Senate and a 120-member House of Representatives. All senators and representatives are elected to two-year terms. North Carolina sends two senators and 13 representatives to the US Congress. The state has 15 electoral votes in presidential elections.
In state politics there is strong competition between the Democrats and Republicans, but, with the exception of 1976, South Carolina voted Republican in every presidential election between 1968 and 2004, and again in 2012. The state's rural area and small towns are largely Republican, while its larger urban centres, such as Charlotte, Raleigh, Durham, and Greensboro are chiefly Democrat.
The executive branch of government includes the governor and nine other elected officers in the council of state, all serving four-year terms. Republican governor Pat McCrory took office in January 2013. A 1997 constitutional amendment gave the governor increased veto powers over legislation.
The state court system consists of the Supreme Court (the highest court, with seven justices), the court of appeals, and the superior courts and district courts, which are the trial courts. All judges are elected.
Economy North Carolina remained a small farming and foresting area up to the late 18th century. Today, agriculture, foresting, and fisheries make up a small fraction of the state's income. Agricultural products include tobacco, corn, soybeans, hogs, and poultry.
Manufacturing includes durable goods, such as electronic equipment and instruments, industrial machinery, motor vehicles, and fabricated metals. Other important goods produced are tobacco products, textiles and clothing, chemicals, food products, rubber, and plastics.
Finance, insurance, real estate, and research facilities make up the leading service industries. Charlotte has become a centre for commercial banking. North Carolina is a popular region for company expansion: Charlotte and Raleigh are among the top US cities chosen for company relocation. Tourism is especially important in the state's coastal region.
North Carolina leads the nation in its production of the minerals feldspar and mica. Building stone, such as granite, crushed stone for cement, and gemstones are also produced.
The state has two deep-water ports: Wilmington, on the east bank of Cape Fear, and Morehead City.
HistoryIndigenous peoples Before European settlement, North Carolina was home to many American Indian tribes representing three language groups: Algonquian, Iroquoian, and Siouan. The Algonquin people were primarily a tribe of northeastern North America who migrated as far south as the Neuse River in North Carolina. Settling in the tidal regions, the Algonquin adapted to the southern climate and conditions and were more water-oriented than their northern ancestors. The principal Iroquoian tribe was the Cherokee, who lived in the high rugged mountains of the western part of the state, taking advantage of the forests for medicine, food, and to build dwellings. Other Iroquoian tribes lived on the Coastal Plain, including the Tuscarora and Cree.
But the 1830 Indian Removal Act under Andrew Jackson forced the Cherokee west in the Trail of Tears. The remaining Cherokee now live on a reservation in the Great Smokey Mountains and are the only federally recognized tribe in the state. The Siouan-speaking tribes, including the Cheraw, Catawba, Waccamaw, and the Occaneechi, lived in the Piedmont province. Descendants of the Cheraw, the Lumbee, now live in central North Carolina and are the largest American Indian tribe east of the Mississippi River. The Occaneechi live primarily in southeastern Piedmont.
Exploration and settlement The first known European exploration of North Carolina was in 1524 by Italian Giovanni da Verrazano, who explored the coast between Kitty Hawk and the Cape Fear River for France. Walter Raleigh sent out 108 colonists from Plymouth, England, in 1585, under his cousin Richard Grenville, who established the first English settlement in the New World on Roanoke Island; the survivors were taken home by Francis Drake in 1586.
Further English attempts, such as the 1587 expedition under John White, failed. In 1590, White returned to Roanoke to find the settlement deserted and the word ‘CROATAN’ carved into a tree – the settlement thereafter was referred to as ‘The Lost Colony’. Similarly abortive attempts were made at settlement in the region by the Spanish and French.
The area that is now North Carolina was settled in the 1650s from Virginia, largely by Scots-Irish farmers. In 1663, Charles II granted a charter for ‘Carolina’ to eight proprietors, and the first permanent settlement was the town of Bath in the Albemarle region, founded in 1705.
North and South Carolina remained one entity until 1712. Indian resistance to European incursion culminated in the Tuscarora War 1711–13. North Carolina became a royal colony from 1729. The plantation economy of South Carolina began to extend into the area in the southeast where rice, indigo, tobacco, and cotton were grown.
Statehood and the Civil War The 1775 Mecklenburg Declaration, in which the citizens of Mecklenburg County declared themselves independent of British rule, is alleged to have been a precursor of the Declaration of Independence, but the Halifax Resolves of 1776 are considered to be the first official act recommending independence for all of the colonies. The state saw little action in the American Revolution, with the exception of the Battle of Moore's Creek Bridge and minor skirmishes. North Carolina joined the Union in 1789.
North Carolina was slow to develop economically in the first half of the 19th century, although gold was discovered at the end of the 18th century at the Reed Gold Mine. The state continued to be involved in national politics, however, with North Carolinians Andrew Johnson and James K Polk becoming US presidents.
North Carolina was the last state to join the Confederacy but provided more troops than any other Southern state, and suffered more losses. Early in the war, the Union occupied the North Carolina coast, attempting to blockade supplies for Confederate troops.
Industrialization and the 20th century North Carolina suddenly blossomed into industrial prominence at the end of the 19th century, its water power and cheap labour attracting textile and clothing manufacturers, especially from the New England states. In the same period, James B Duke mechanized the cigarette industry, and furniture-making, utilizing the Piedmont's abundant hardwoods, also boomed. Textile company towns came into being, and the location of manufacturing establishments in dozens of small communities left the state without a single major city, a situation that began to change in 1959, when the Research Triangle Park was created between Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill, beginning a period of growth in high-tech industries. Per-capita income rose steadily during the mid-20th century.
In February 1960, North Carolina became the focus of attention when the first-ever civil-rights ‘sit-in’ took place at a lunch counter in Greensboro. Subsequent sit-ins were frequent.
In the 1980s, Charlotte became a banking and business centre. While urban areas became more prosperous, however, the divide between urban and rural economies widened. Futhermore, many of the state's industries offer predominantly low-skill, low-wage jobs and are threatened by foreign competition.
In 2005 the state legislature voted to implement a state lottery.
Famous peoplesport Floyd Patterson (1935–2006), boxer; Richard Petty (1937– ), auto racer; Sugar Ray Leonard (1956– ), boxer; Mark O'Meara (1957– ), golfer
the arts O Henry (1862–1910), writer; Paul Green (1894–1981), playwright; Thomas Wolfe (1900–1938), novelist; Romare Bearden (1914–1988), painter and printmaker; Thelonious Monk (1917–1982), jazz pianist; Ava Gardner (1922–1990), actor; Earl Scruggs (1924–2012), bluegrass musician; John Coltrane (1926–1967), jazz saxophonist; Andy Griffith (1926–2012), actor; Kenneth Noland (1927–2010), painter; Nina Simone (1933–2003), jazz singer and composer
science Richard Gatling (1818–1903), inventor; William Thornton (1929– ), astronaut and physician
society and education Edward R Murrow (1908–1965), journalist; Billy Graham (1918–2018), evangelist; Charles Kuralt (1934–1997), journalist
economics James Duke (1856–1925), industrialist and philanthropist
politics and law Dolley Madison (1758–1849), first lady; James K Polk (1795–1849), 11th president of the USA; Andrew Johnson (1808–1875), 17th president of the USA; Hiram Rhodes Revels (1827–1901), minister and politician; Josephus Daniels (1862–1948), editor and politician; Robert C Byrd (1917–2010), politician; Jesse Helms (1921–2008), senator; Elizabeth Dole (1936– ), politician; Jesse Jackson (1941– ), politician and cleric.
North Carolina Encyclopedia
North Carolina – flag
North Carolina was one of the original 13 colonies of the United States, and it became the 12th state, founded in 1789. The state of North...
Surely there is no place in the world where the inhabitants live with less labor than in North Carolina. —William Byrd, A...
State in E USA, on the Atlantic coast; the capital is Raleigh . The first English colony in North America was founded in 1585 on Roanoke...