North Carolina

The Tar Heel State

Where is it?

State Flag




Southeast - Atlantic Coast
Geographic coordinates:
34°N to 36°21'N
75°30'W to 84°15'W
total: 53,821 sq mi
land: 48,718 sq mi
water: 5,103 sq mi
coastline: 301 mi
shoreline: 3,375 mi
Bordering States:
Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia
Elevation extremes:
lowest point: 0 ft
highest point: Mt. Mitchell 6,684 ft
North Carolina consists of three main geographic sections: the coastal plain, which occupies the eastern 45% of the state; the Piedmont region, which contains the middle 35%; and the Appalachian Mountains and foothills, which take up the remaining 20% of the state in the west.

The coastal plain begins in the east as a chain of narrow, sandy barrier islands known as the "Outer Banks". The Outer Banks encompass two sounds — Albemarle Sound in the north and Pamlico Sound in the south; they are the two largest landlocked sounds in the United States. Inland the coastal plain is relatively flat, with rich soils which grow tobacco, soybeans, and cotton. The major rivers of this section, the Neuse River, Tar River, Pamlico River, Cape Fear River, and Roanoke River, tend to be slow-moving and wide.

The coastal plain turns into the Piedmont region along the "fall line," a line which marks the elevation at which waterfalls first appear on streams and rivers. The Piedmont region of central North Carolina is the state's most urbanized and densely-populated section - all five of the state's largest cities are located in the Piedmont. It consists of gently rolling countryside frequently broken by hills or low isolated mountain ridges. Many small, deeply eroded mountain ranges and peaks are located in the Piedmont, including the Saura Mountains, Pilot Mountain, the Uwharrie Mountains, Crowder's Mountain, King's Pinnacle, the Brushy Mountains, and the South Mountains. The Piedmont ranges from about 300-400 feet (90-120 m) elevation in the east to over 1,000 feet (300 m) in the west. The major rivers of the Piedmont, such as the Yadkin and Catawba, tend to be fast-flowing, shallow, and narrow.

The western section of the state is part of the Appalachian Mountain range. Among the subranges of the Appalachians located in the state are the Great Smoky Mountains, Blue Ridge Mountains, Balsams, Pisgahs, and the Black Mountains. The Black Mountains are the highest mountains in the Eastern United States, and culminate in Mount Mitchell at 6,684 feet (2,037 m). It is the highest point east of the Mississippi River and in the Eastern United States. Due to the higher altitude in the mountains, the climate often differs starkly from the rest of the state. Winters in western North Carolina typically feature significant snowfall and subfreezing temperatures more akin to a northern state than a southern one.




9,943,964 (2014)
Largest City:
Charlotte: 809,958 (2010)
Age structure:
0-5 years old: 7.0%
<18 years old: 24.8%
65 years and over: 12.1%
Male: 49.2% Female: 50.8%
Population growth rate:
7.9% (2000-2005)
Population density:
165.24 per sq mi
Race(2000 Census):
White non-Hispanic: 68.6%
Hispanic: 6.1%
Black: 21.8%
Asian: 1.7%
Native American: 1.3%
Multi-Race: 1.0%
Christian: 88%
Other: 1%
Non-Religious: 11%




North Carolina was originally inhabited by many different native peoples, including the Cherokee, Tuscarora, Cheraw, Pamlico, Meherrin, Coree, Machapunga, Cape Fear Indians, Waxhaw, Saponi, Tutelo, Waccamaw, Coharie, and Catawba. North Carolina was the second American territory the British attempted to colonize. Sir Walter Raleigh, for whom the state capital is named, chartered two colonies on the North Carolina (then Virginia) coast in the late 1580s, both ending in failure. The demise of one, the "Lost Colony" of Roanoke Island, remains one of the great mysteries of American history. Virginia Dare, the first English child to be born in North America, was born in North Carolina. Dare County is named for her.

The first permanent European settlers of North Carolina were British colonists who migrated south from Virginia, following a rapid growth of the colony and the subsequent shortage of available farmland. Nathaniel Batts was documented as one of the first of these Virginian immigrants. He settled south of the Chowan River and east of the Great Dismal Swamp in 1655. By 1663, this northeastern area of the Province of Carolina, known as the Albemarle Settlements, was experiencing full-scale British settlement.

During the same period, the English monarch Charles II gave the province to the Lords Proprietors, a group of noblemen who had helped restore Charles to the throne in 1670. The new province of "Carolina" was named in honor and memory of King Charles I (Latin: Carolus). In 1712, North Carolina became a separate colony. With the exception of the Earl Granville's holdings, it became a royal colony seventeen years later. On May 20, 1775 Mecklenburg County became the first North Carolina county to publicly declare its independence from Great Britain. It did so by issuing the Mecklenburg Declaration. (Because of its similarity to the more well-known United States Declaration of Independence, which would appear 18 months later, the document is thought by some to be spurious.) On April 12, 1776, the colony became the first to instruct its delegates to the Continental Congress to vote for independence from the British crown. The dates of both of these independence-related events are memorialized on the state flag and state seal.

In 1860, North Carolina was a slave state. However, it refused to join the Confederacy until President Abraham Lincoln called on it to invade its sister-state, South Carolina. The state was the site of few battles, but in the Civil War it provided at least 125,000 troops to the Confederacy— more than any other Confederate state. Approximately 40,000 of those troops never returned home, dead of battlefield wounds, disease and privation. Governor Zebulon Baird Vance, elected in 1862, tried to maintain state autonomy against Confederate President Jefferson Davis in Richmond. Even after secession, some North Carolinians refused to support the Confederacy; this was particularly true of non-slaveowning farmers in the state's mountains and western Piedmont region. Some of these farmers remained neutral during the war, while others covertly supported the Union cause during the conflict. Even so, Confederate troops from North Carolina served in virtually all the major battles of the Army of Northern Virginia, the Confederacy's largest and most famous army. The largest battle fought in North Carolina was at Bentonville, which was a futile attempt by Confederate General Joseph Johnston to slow Union General William Tecumseh Sherman's advance through the Carolinas in the spring of 1865. In March 1865, Sherman was able to capture his chief North Carolina objective when he took Goldsboro; at the time it was the main railroad junction in North Carolina. Johnston surrendered one of the largest Confederate armies at Bennett Place, a farm house in what is now Durham, in late April 1865, weeks after General Robert E. Lee's surrender at Appomattox.




November 21, 1789 (12th State)
State Tree:
Longleaf Pine
State Bird:
State Flower:
The governor, lieutenant governor, and eight elected executive department heads form the Council of State. Ten other executive department heads appointed by the governor form the North Carolina Cabinet. The state's current governor is Democrat Mike Easley.

The North Carolina General Assembly, or Legislature, consists of two houses: a 50-member Senate and a 120-member House of Representatives. For the 2005–2006 session, the current President Pro Tempore of the Senate is Democrat Marc Basnight (the Lieutenant Governor of North Carolina is the President of the Senate); The House Speaker is Democrat James B. Black. The prior legislature's power sharing two-speaker arrangement is no longer in effect, as the House Democrats won a decided victory and majority of the seats in the 2004 election.

In 2005, the state Legislature voted to implement a state lottery, nullifying North Carolina's reputation as the "anti-lottery" state, where owning a lottery ticket from another state was once a felony. By 2005, every state surrounding North Carolina had a lottery in operation. The North Carolina lottery began selling tickets March 31, 2006. North Carolina remains a control state, although beer and wine can be sold by retailers.

The Supreme Court of North Carolina is the state's highest appellate court; it numbers seven justices. The North Carolina Court of Appeals is the only intermediate appellate court in the state; it consists of fifteen judges who rule in rotating panels of three. Together, the Supreme Court and Court of Appeals constitute the appellate division of the court system.




According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the state's 2004 total gross state product was $336 billion. This is more than any state around it grossed. Its 2005 per capita personal income was $31,029, 36th in the nation. North Carolina's agricultural outputs include poultry and eggs, tobacco, hogs, milk, nursery stock, cattle, sweet potatoes, and soybeans. However, North Carolina is the state most affected by outsourcing; one in five North Carolina manufacturing jobs has been lost to overseas competition.

Over the past century, North Carolina has grown to become a national leader in agriculture, financial services, and industry. The state's industrial output—mainly textiles, chemicals, electrical equipment, paper and pulp/paper products—ranked eighth in the nation in the early 1990s. The textile industry, which was once a mainstay of the state's economy, has been steadily losing jobs to markets in Latin America and Asia for the past 25 years. Over the past few years, another important Carolina industry, furniture production, has also been hard-hit by jobs moving to Asia (especially China). Tobacco, one of North Carolina's earliest sources of revenue, remains vital to the local economy, although concerns about whether the federal government will continue to support subsidies for tobacco farmers has led some growers to switch to other crops or leave farming altogether.

The information and biotechnology industries have been steadily on the rise since the creation of the Research Triangle Park in the 1950's. Located between Raleigh and Durham, its proximity to local research universities has no doubt helped to fuel growth. Meanwhile, beginning in the 1980's, Charlotte's banking industry began a period of rapid growth, creating what is now the second largest banking center in the United States (after New York). In effect,Forbes Magazine has named North Carolina the 3rd largest and best state for bussiness in the United States.

The state is also a center of American motorsports, with many NASCAR racing teams and related industries located near Charlotte. NASCAR recently announced that the NASCAR Hall of Fame will be built in Charlotte. There are also many motorcross and off-road races in North Carolina, the North Carolina Hare scramble Association hosts 16 races each year throughout North Carolina. Also the GNCC Racing series makes 2 stops in North Carolina, in Morganton and Yadkinville, the only other state to host 2 GNCCs is Ohio.

North Carolina is the third largest film production state behind California and New York. Film studios are located in Shelby, Raleigh, Durham, Charlotte, Asheville, and Wilmington.