North Carolina — History and Culture
A lot of history has gone down in North Carolina. America’s very first colony was attempted along the Outer Banks on Roanoke Island in 1587, and the state was an early boomer thanks to tobacco and cotton. There are battlefields from the Revolutionary and Civil Wars as well as pivotal points from the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. The people here know they are part of an incredibly rich cultural legacy and take a lot of pride in their traditions, whether it’s in the folksy Appalachian foothills or the colonial-era towns along the coast.
When the first European settlers arrived in the North Carolina region they found established Native American tribes like the Sioux, Iroquois, and Cherokee living here. Some tribes were cooperative with the settlers and others were hostile. In the end, all Native Americans were either killed by disease introduced by the Europeans or forced onto reservations. Only the Cherokee nation survives in North Carolina today.
The very first English colony that tried to get a toehold in America set up shop on the island of Roanoke in the Outer Banks in 1587. Sir Walter Raleigh and John White led this original expedition of 120 settlers, though White soon returned to England on business. When he returned three years later the entire colony had disappeared without a trace. This became the legendary Lost Colony.
By the mid-1600s the English had established themselves in the region, growing tobacco that was shipped back to England. Edenton and Elizabeth City were the first two towns along the coast, and today retain much of their colonial-era charm. Scottish, German, English, and Quaker immigrants flocked to the Carolinas to seek their fortune in tobacco and cotton.
When the American Revolution broke out, North Carolina sided with the colonists. New Bern was chosen as the first capital in 1766, building Tryon Palace in 1771 for the governor. But in 1788 the capital was moved to Raleigh, which was more strategically located. In the Civil War, North Carolina was the last state to secede from the Union. The state saw a lot of fighting, including the final Battle of Bentonville near Durham that ended the war.
During Reconstruction, North Carolina continued to be the country’s main producer of tobacco but also added furniture making to its main industries. In 1960 the Civil Rights Movement got a kick-start in Greensboro when black college students refused to leave a white-only Woolworth’s café. The 1980s and 90s brought the current wave of economic prosperity to the state as dozens of major high-tech companies set up shop in the Research Triangle around Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill.
North Carolina best represents the evolution of the old ways of the Deep South and the new thinking of a business-minded state. Its small coastal towns like Edenton and Wilmington are still rooted in their colonial traditions, while the western Appalachian towns maintain their own unique folksy traditions. In the large cities in the east and Piedmont it’s all about high-tech research and business. But no matter where you go in North Carolina, these people cherish their rich heritage and important role in the formation of America.
The hospitality that is so famous in the American South hasn’t been lost during the state’s constant development. Even in the large cities like Raleigh and Charlotte the people are friendly and laid-back. North Carolina is a wonderful state to travel due to its diversity of culture, history, and natural attractions. The folks here know they have a good thing and relish in their surroundings.