North Carolina History
Unlike in most of the northern US states on the Atlantic, the Spanish were first to make settlements in North Carolina. The natives did not welcome warmly the expedition led by Juan Pardo in 1567. In fact, they killed all but one settler. North Carolina was inhabited for thousands of years by various succeeding indigenous cultures, mostly Algonquian, Iroquoian and Siouan-speaking tribes. Colonists and settlers from both Spain and Britain had a lot of trouble maintaining their settlements in the state. One of the more famous failed colonies was the Roanoke colony, financed by Sir Walter Raleigh. The fate of the final colonists, who disappeared three years after the last shipment of supplies from England was sent, was never determined and the mystery of the “Lost Colony” remains unsolved to this day. Later, North Carolina became one of the Thirteen Colonies established by the British, and together with South Carolina it formed the Province of Carolina. At that time, the province was mostly oriented towards agriculture and it consisted mainly of isolated farms. There were only a few towns there, and they were rather small. Politically, the colonists supported the American Revolution and the loyalists among them were weak and outnumbered.
In the early 19th century the production of tobacco and cotton increased in North Carolina and the slavery system, with plantations and slave labor, significantly increased, especially in the eastern parts of the province. The number of free people of color was low and their rights kept being reduced.
North Carolina was the last Confederate state to depart from the Union, declaring secession on May 20, 1861. After the war ended in 1865, the slavery was abolished and the Reconstruction Era started.
The following few years saw numerous disputes and even some violent confrontation between white Democrats and a coalition that consisted of freed blacks, northerners who moved to the south and white Republican supporters of the Reconstruction. Democrats prevailed, asserting white supremacy and introducing racial segregation. Even though the local congressional district elected four black congressmen, the African-Americans in North Carolina were generally disenfranchised and remained stripped off their political rights up until 1964, when the Federal Civil Rights Act was passed. Interestingly, it was not until 1992 that another African-American from North Carolina was elected as a US Representative.
Cotton economy remained dominant in the post-Civil War period, and it eventually led to a formation of a large industrial base in the western part of the state, thanks to many cotton mills in and around Piedmont region. Increased production demanded better transportation, which led to construction of railroads that connected booming industrial towns and cities. Around that time, North Carolina became famous as the site where the Wright Brothers made their first successful flight in 1903.
The Great Depression was particularly hard on North Carolina, but fortunately Roosevelt’s New Deal provided significant help for the farmers, especially those who grew tobacco and cotton. After the World War II, towns and cities of North Carolina began their rapid growth, especially Raleigh, Charlotte and Durham.
North Carolina Geography
North Carolina is classified as a Southern state, or, more precisely, a South Atlantic US state. It borders with Virginia on the north, South Carolina on the south and Georgia and Tennessee on the southwest and west. The Atlantic Ocean represents the state’s eastern border.
Geography of North Carolina is quite diversified. The state can be divided into three geographic sections: the plain along the coast of the Atlantic, the Piedmont in the middle, and the Appalachian mountains and foothills. Outer Banks is the easternmost section of the state, consisting of a string of islands that form a barrier between the ocean and two inland sounds – Albemarle and Pamlico sounds. This region has been known for a long time as the “Graveyard of the Atlantic” on account of more than thousand ships that sunk in those waters since mid-16th century.
Just behind the coastline, the terrain is mostly flat, with soil that has proved to be ideal for growing tobacco, cotton, soy and melons. Agriculture is still the main economy branch in this area. The area between the coastal line and Piedmont region is known as the “fall line”, because of the slight increase of the terrain and the elevation that conditions the formation of waterfalls.
Piedmont is a region in central North Carolina, the most urbanized and developed of all regions in the state. Despite offering good conditions for farming and agriculture, due to gently rolling countryside and occasional low hills and mountains, Piedmont is today largely dominated by suburbs, shopping malls and office plazas, and the agricultural activity has been in a steady decline for decades.
The western part of the state is dominated by the Appalachian. Some of the most prominent Appalachian subranges in North Carolina are the Great Smoky Mountains, Blue Ridge Mountains and the Black Mountains. The Black Mountains represent the highest mountain range in the eastern USA and its peak, Mount Mitchell, is the highest peak in the USA east of the Mississippi. In addition to agriculture, the main industry in this part of the state is tourism.
The climate in North Carolina varies from region to region. For example, the coastal plain is influenced by the Atlantic Ocean, meaning the temperatures are moderate during summers and winters as well and the snowfall is rare. The Piedmont region is less influenced by the ocean and the weather is more harsh, with colder winters and hotter summers. The Appalachian Mountains region of North Carolina is the coldest, with cold winters and mild to cool summers.
Severe weather is not unusual in North Carolina. Hurricanes hit once a decade and the most devastating ones were the Hurricane Hazel, Hurricane Fran and Hurricane Floyd. The state has less than 20 tornadoes per year. One of the worst recent tornado outbreaks took place in April 2011, when 25 tornadoes hit the state, mostly the Piedmont region, killing 24 people and causing over $115 million in property damage in Raleigh alone.
Population of North Carolina
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2011 North Carolina had a population of 9,656,401, with an 1.27% increase compared to the 2010 Census. In 2010, the racial makeup in the state was 65.3% non-Hispanic White, 21.5% Black or African American, 8.4% Hispanic or Latino, 2.2% Asian, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 4.3% some other race and 2.2% two or more races.
The state has a large concentration of African Americans, who make up almost a quarter of the entire population in North Carolina, especially in the eastern Coastal Plain and in parts of the Piedmont Plateau. Several cities in North Carolina, especially Charlotte, Raleigh and Durham, have one or more predominantly black neighborhoods. The number of middle-class African American families has increased significantly in the last five decades, starting from the 1970s.
The state also has large Asian American communities, especially those of Indian and Vietnamese ancestry. North Carolina also has one of the largest Montagnard populations. The first group of these refugees from Central Vietnam came to the States in 1986 and they were never properly identified until the 2010 U.S. Census. North Carolina also has Hmong, Chinese, Filipino, Japanese and Korean communities.
North Carolina has the largest population of Native Americans in the East Coast. There are eight Native American tribes recognized by the state and living within its borders: the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, the Lumbee Tribe, the Haliwa-Saponi, the Waccamaw Siouan Indian Tribe, the Coharie Tribe, the Sappony, the Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation and the Meherrin.
The largest religious denomination in North Carolina is Protestant (Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian and Lutheran), Roman Catholic, Pentecostal, Mormon, Judaism, Buddhism and several minor religious groups.
The largest cities with population over 70,000 are Charlotte, Raleigh, Greensboro, Durham, Winston-Salem, Fayetteville, Cary, Wilmington, High Point, Greenville, Asheville, Concord, Gastonia and Jacksonville.
The largest combined statistical areas are Metrolina (Charlotte-Gastonia-Salisbury), the Triangle (Raleigh-Durham-Cary-Chapel Hill) and the Triad (Greensboro - Winston-Salem - High Point).
North Carolina Economy
In 2010, the gross state product in North Carolina was $424.9 billion. In 2011, the state has a labor force of 4.5 million and the employment of approximately 4.1 million.
Primary agricultural outputs in the state are eggs, poultry, tobacco, hogs, nursery stock, cattle, milk, soybeans and sweet potatoes. North Carolina is America’s leading producer of tobacco. Historically, tobacco was the primary source of revenue for the state and today it is one of the most vital sectors, especially when it comes to local economy.
Banking and finance industry are strong sectors in North Carolina, especially in large urban centers like Charlotte, which has been experiencing rapid economic growth due to those sectors. In fact, Charlotte is currently the second-largest banking city in the USA and home of the Bank of America. North Carolina is also home to BB&T, another major American bank.
The Research Triangle Park between Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill, a globally prominent and prestigious research center with more than 170 companies and agencies, is the top contributor to the information and biotechnology sectors in North Carolina. However, this is not the only scientific park in the state - the North Carolina Research Campus and the Piedmont Triad Research Park are also worth mentioning thanks to their increasing growth and major scientific contributions.
Film and movie production are also very important for the economy in North Carolina. There are film studios in Raleigh, Durham, Charlotte, Shelby, Wilmington, Asheville and Winston-Salem. EUE Screen Gems Studios in Wilmington is the largest TV and movie production facility outside California. Some of the movies filmed in North Carolina include Forrest Gump, Bull Durham, Cape Fear, Nell, 28 Days, Blue Velvet, The Color Purple, Dirty Dancing and many more.
Tourism industry in the state employs more than 190,000 people. Tourist destinations include Golf courses, wineries, amusement parks, beaches, as well as convention and sports venues.
North Carolina Government and Legislation
Government in North Carolina follows the same model as the federal level, meaning it is divided into three branches: executive, legislative and judicial.
The executive branch consists of the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Secretary of State, Attorney General, Commissioners of Agriculture, Insurance and Labor, State Auditor, State Treasurer and Superintendent of Public Instruction. The current Governor of North Carolina is Bev Perdue, who is the first ever female governor of North Carolina.
The legislative branch consists of the North Carolina General Assembly, a bicameral body consisting of the North Carolina House of Representatives with 120 members and the North Carolina Senate with 50 members.
The highest institution of the judicial branch in the state is the Supreme Court of North Carolina, with seven justices. The North Carolina Court of Appeals is the intermediate appellate court with three rotating five-judge panels. The trial division consists of the Superior Court and the District Court.
Over the course of its history, North Carolina has had three constitutions. The current one was adopted in 1971.
Politically, North Carolina is dominated by the Democratic and Republican parties. The state has voted Republican in every presidential election from 1968 to 2004 (with the exception of Jimmy Carter in 1976). Barack Obama was the first Democratic candidate to win North Carolina in 32 years.
Education in North Carolina
There are 2,425 public schools in North Carolina, including 99 charter schools, organized in 115 public school systems, overseen by local school boards. Public schools are overseen by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction.
North Carolina is home of the America’s first public university - the University of North Carolina (currently called University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill), founded in 1795. Today, the University of North Carolina System consists of 17 public institutions, most notably the UNC-Chapel Hill, North Carolina State University (currently the largest university in the state), UNC Charlotte, UNC Asheville, UNC Greensboro, UNC Wilmington, UNC School of the Arts, East Carolina University and Western Carolina University.
North Carolina has several historically black colleges, such as North Carolina A&T State University, North Carolina Central University and Winston-Salem State University.
The state also has a number of large and prestigious private universities and colleges, most notably Duke University, Wake Forest University, Barton College, Davidson College, Shaw University, John Wesley College, Elon University, Guilford College, Salem College and many more.
North Carolina Transportation
North Carolina has the largest state-maintained highways system, with over 77,000 miles of roads. Major interstate highways in the state are I-26, I-40, I-73, I-74, I-77, I-85 and I-95, and the three-digit interstate highways include I-485, I-277, I-440, I-540, I-785, I-840 and I-285. There is also a number of U.S. Highways and State Routes.
Passenger rail service is offered by Amtrak on its Palmetto service (New York-Florence-Savannah), Silver Star service (New York-Florence-Tampa) and Silver Meteor service (New York-Florence-Miami) and also on the Piedmont and Carolinian intercity services.
As for the air travel, the largest airport in North Carolina is Charlotte/Douglas International Airport in Charlotte, followed by Raleigh-Durham International Airport in Raleigh. Other airports include Piedmont Triad International Airport, Asheville Regional Airport, Wilmington International Airport, Fayetteville Regional Airport, Coastal Carolina Regional Airport and Albert J. Ellis Airport in Jacksonville.