Quick facts for kids
|State of North Carolina|
Old North State; Tar Heel State
|Anthem: The Old North State|
Map of the United States with North Carolina highlighted
|Before statehood||Province of North-Carolina|
|Admitted to the Union||November 21, 1789 (12th)|
|Largest metro||Greater Charlotte|
|• Upper house||Senate|
|• Lower house||House of Representatives|
|• Total||53,819 sq mi (139,390 km2)|
|• Land||48,711 sq mi (126,161 km2)|
|• Water||1,972 sq mi (5,108 km2) 9.5%|
|• Length||600 mi (950 km)|
|• Width||300 mi (480 km)|
|Elevation||700 ft (210 m)|
|Highest elevation||6,684 ft (2,037 m)|
|0 ft (0 m)|
|• Density||208.7/sq mi (80.6/km2)|
|• Density rank||15th|
|• Median household income||$52,752|
|• Income rank||39th|
|Demonym(s)||North Carolinian (official);
Tar Heel (colloquial)
|• Official language||English|
|• Spoken language||As of 2010
|Time zone||UTC−05:00 (Eastern)|
|• Summer (DST)||UTC−04:00 (EDT)|
|ISO 3166 code||US-NC|
|Latitude||33° 50′ N to 36° 35′ N|
|Longitude||75° 28′ W to 84° 19′ W|
|North Carolina state symbols|
|Butterfly||Eastern tiger swallowtail|
|Insect||Western honey bee|
|Mammal||Eastern gray squirrel|
|Reptile||Eastern box turtle|
|Colors||Red and blue|
|Food||Scuppernong grape and sweet potato|
|Motto||Esse quam videri
("To be, rather than to seem")
|Slogan||First Flight (unofficial)|
|Song||"The Old North State"|
|Other||Frog: Pine Barrens tree frog|
|State route marker|
Released in 2001
|Lists of United States state symbols|
North Carolina is a state in the southeastern region of the United States. The state borders South Carolina and Georgia to the south, Tennessee to the west, Virginia to the north, and the Atlantic Ocean to the east.
The state is divided into 100 counties.
The state has a wide range of elevations, from sea level on the coast to 6,684 feet (2,037 m) at Mount Mitchell, the highest point in North America east of the Mississippi River. The climate of the coastal plains is strongly influenced by the Atlantic Ocean. Most of the state falls in the humid subtropical climate zone. More than 300 miles (500 km) from the coast, the western, mountainous part of the state has a subtropical highland climate.
North Carolina is bordered by South Carolina on the south, Georgia on the southwest, Tennessee on the west, Virginia on the north, and the Atlantic Ocean on the east. The United States Census Bureau places North Carolina in the South Atlantic division of the southern region.
North Carolina consists of three main geographic regions: the Atlantic coastal plain, occupying the eastern portion of the state; the central Piedmont region, and the Mountain region in the west, which is part of the Appalachian Mountains. The coastal plain consists of more specifically-defined areas known as the Outer Banks, a string of sandy, narrow barrier islands separated from the mainland by sounds or inlets, including Albemarle Sound and Pamlico Sound, the tidewater region, the native home of the venus flytrap, and the inner coastal plain, where longleaf pine trees are native.
So many ships have been lost off Cape Hatteras that the area is known as the "Graveyard of the Atlantic"; more than 1,000 ships have sunk in these waters since records began in 1526. The most famous of these is the Queen Anne's Revenge (flagship of the pirate Blackbeard), which went aground in Beaufort Inlet in 1718.
The coastal plain transitions to the Piedmont region along the Atlantic Seaboard fall line, the elevation at which waterfalls first appear on streams and rivers. The Piedmont region of central North Carolina is the state's most populous region, containing the six largest cities in the state by population. It consists of gently rolling countryside frequently broken by hills or low mountain ridges. Small, isolated, and deeply eroded mountain ranges and peaks are located in the Piedmont, including the Sauratown 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 feet (91 m) in elevation in the east to about 1,500 feet (460 m) in the west.
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, and Black Mountains. The Black Mountains are the highest in the eastern United States, and culminate in Mount Mitchell at 6,684 feet (2,037 m), the highest point east of the Mississippi River.
North Carolina has 17 major river basins. The five basins west of the Blue Ridge Mountains flow to the Gulf of Mexico, while the remainder flow to the Atlantic Ocean. Of the 17 basins, 11 originate within the state of North Carolina, but only four are contained entirely within the state's border – the Cape Fear, the Neuse, the White Oak, and the Tar-Pamlico basin.
Elevation above sea level is most responsible for temperature change across the state, with the mountain area being coolest year-round. The climate is also influenced by the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf Stream, especially in the coastal plain. These influences tend to cause warmer winter temperatures along the coast, where temperatures only occasionally drop below the freezing point at night. The coastal plain averages around 1 inch (2.5 cm) of snow or ice annually, and in many years, there may be no snow or ice at all.
The Atlantic Ocean exerts less influence on the climate of the Piedmont region, which has hotter summers and colder winters than along the coast, though the average daily maximum is still below 90 °F (32 °C) in most locations.
North Carolina experiences severe weather in both summer and winter, with summer bringing threat of hurricanes, tropical storms, heavy rain, and flooding. Destructive hurricanes that have hit North Carolina include Hurricane Fran, Hurricane Floyd, and Hurricane Hazel, the latter being the strongest storm ever to make landfall in the state, as a Category 4 in 1954. Hurricane Isabel ranks as the most destructive of the 21st century.
North Carolina averages fewer than 20 tornadoes per year, many of them produced by hurricanes or tropical storms along the coastal plain. Tornadoes from thunderstorms are a risk, especially in the eastern part of the state. The western Piedmont is often protected by the mountains, which tend to break up storms as they try to cross over; the storms will often re-form farther east. A phenomenon known as "cold-air damming" often occurs in the northwestern part of the state, which can weaken storms but can also lead to major ice events in winter.
In April 2011, the worst tornado outbreak in North Carolina's history occurred. Thirty confirmed tornadoes touched down, mainly in the Eastern Piedmont and Sandhills, killing at least 24 people.
Woodland-culture American Indians were in the area around 1000 BCE; starting around 750 CE, Mississippian-culture Indians created larger political units with stronger leadership and more stable, longer-term settlements.
In June 1718, the pirate Blackbeard ran his flagship, the Queen Anne's Revenge, aground at Beaufort Inlet, North Carolina, in present-day Carteret County. After the grounding her crew and supplies were transferred to smaller ships. In November, after appealing to the governor of North Carolina, who promised safe-haven and a pardon, Blackbeard was killed in an ambush by troops from Virginia.
North Carolina became one of the English Thirteen Colonies and with the territory of South Carolina was originally known as the Province of Carolina. The northern and southern parts of the original province separated in 1729.
Originally settled by small farmers, sometimes having a few slaves, who were oriented toward subsistence agriculture, the colony lacked cities or towns.
Pirates menaced the coastal settlements, but by 1718 the pirates had been captured and killed.
Growth was strong in the middle of the 18th century, as the economy attracted Scots-Irish, Quaker, English and German immigrants. The colonists generally supported the American Revolution, as the number of Loyalists was smaller than in some other colonies.
During colonial times, Edenton served as the state capital beginning in 1722, and New Bern was selected as the capital in 1766. In 1788 Raleigh was chosen as the site of the new capital, as its central location protected it from coastal attacks. Officially established in 1792 as both county seat and state capital, the city was named after Sir Walter Raleigh, sponsor of Roanoke, the "lost colony" on Roanoke Island.
North Carolina made the smallest per-capita contribution to the war of any state, as only 7,800 men joined the Continental Army under General George Washington; an additional 10,000 served in local militia units under such leaders as General Nathanael Greene.
After 1800, cotton and tobacco became important export crops. The eastern half of the state, especially the Tidewater region, developed a slave society based on a plantation system and slave labor. After Nat Turner's slave uprising in 1831, North Carolina and other southern states reduced the rights of free blacks. In 1835 the legislature withdrew their right to vote.
The Democrats in 1896 passed laws to impose Jim Crow and racial segregation of public facilities. Voters of North Carolina's 2nd congressional district elected a total of four African-American congressmen through these years of the late 19th century.
Political tensions ran so high that a small group of white Democrats in 1898 planned to take over the Wilmington government if their candidates were not elected. In the Wilmington Insurrection of 1898, more than 1,500 white men attacked the black newspaper and neighborhood, killed numerous men, and ran off the white Republican mayor and aldermen. They installed their own people and elected Alfred M. Waddell as mayor, in the only coup d'état in United States history.
In 1899 the state legislature passed a new constitution, with requirements for poll taxes and literacy tests for voter registration which disfranchised most black Americans in the state. Exclusion from voting had wide effects: it meant that black Americans could not serve on juries or in any local office. Black citizens had no political voice in the state until after the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965 were passed to enforce their constitutional rights. It was not until 1992 that another African American was elected as a US Representative from North Carolina.
In the first half of the 20th century, many African Americans left the state to go North for better opportunities, in the Great Migration. Their departure changed the demographic characteristics of many areas.
North Carolina was hard hit by the Great Depression, but the New Deal programs of Franklin D. Roosevelt for cotton and tobacco significantly helped the farmers. After World War II, the state's economy grew rapidly, highlighted by the growth of such cities as Charlotte, Raleigh, and Durham in the Piedmont. Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill form the Research Triangle, a major area of universities and advanced scientific and technical research.
In the 1990s, Charlotte became a major regional and national banking center. Tourism has also been a boon for the North Carolina economy as people flock to the Outer Banks coastal area and the Appalachian Mountains anchored by Asheville.
By the 1970s, spurred in part by the increasingly leftward tilt of national Democrats, conservative whites began to vote for Republican national candidates and gradually for more Republicans locally. The Greensboro Sit-ins played a crucial role in the Civil Rights Movement to bring full equality to American blacks.
Race and ethnicity
Demographics of North Carolina covers the varieties of ethnic groups that reside in North Carolina, along with the relevant trends.
The state's racial composition in the 2010 Census:
- White: 68.5% (65.3% non-Hispanic white, 3.2% White Hispanic)
- Black or African American: 21.5%
- Latin and Hispanic American of any race: 8.4%
- Some other race: 4.3%
- Multiracial American: 2.2%
- Asian American: 2.2%
- Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander: 1%
As of 2010, 89.66% (7,750,904) of North Carolina residents age 5 and older spoke English at home as a primary language, while 6.93% (598,756) spoke Spanish, 0.32% (27,310) French, 0.27% (23,204) German, and Chinese (which includes Mandarin) was spoken as a main language by 0.27% (23,072) of the population over the age of five. In total, 10.34% (893,735) of North Carolina's population age 5 and older spoke a mother language other than English.
Most populated counties
- See also: List of counties in North Carolina
In 2016, the US Census Bureau released 2015 population estimate counts for North Carolina's counties. Mecklenburg County has the largest population, while Wake County has the second largest population in North Carolina.
- See also: List of municipalities in North Carolina
In 2016, the US Census Bureau released 2015 population estimate counts for North Carolina's cities with populations above 70,000. Charlotte has the largest population, while Raleigh has the highest population density of North Carolina's largest cities.
North Carolina's largest cities
- Charlotte - population 827,097
- Raleigh - population 451,066
- Greensboro - population 285,342
- Durham - population 257,636
- Winston-Salem - population 241,218
- Fayetteville - population 201,963
- Cary - population 159,769
- Wilmington - population 115,933
- High Point - population 110,268
- Greenville - population 90,597
Largest combined statistical areas
North Carolina has three major Combined Statistical Areas with populations of more than 1.6 million (U.S. Census Bureau 2015 estimates):
- Metrolina: Charlotte–Gastonia–Salisbury, North Carolina-South Carolina – population 2,583,956
- The Research Triangle: Raleigh–Durham–Cary, North Carolina – population 2,117,103
- The Triad: Greensboro–Winston-Salem–High Point, North Carolina – population 1,642,506
North Carolina has a very diverse economy because of its great availability of hydroelectric power, its pleasant climate, and its wide variety of soils.
North Carolina leads the nation in the production of tobacco, textiles, and furniture.
Charlotte, the state's largest city, is a major textile and trade center.
Science, technology, energy and math, or STEM, industries in the area surrounding North Carolina's capital have grown 17.9 percent since 2001.
North Carolina is the leading U.S. state in production of flue-cured tobacco and sweet potatoes, and comes second in the farming of pigs and hogs, trout, and turkeys. North Carolina also ranked second in the production of Christmas trees.
Transportation systems in North Carolina consist of air, water, road, rail, and public transportation including intercity rail via Amtrak and light rail in Charlotte. North Carolina has the second-largest state highway system in the country as well as the largest ferry system on the east coast.
North Carolina's airports serve destinations throughout the United States and international destinations in Canada, Europe, Central America, and the Caribbean. In 2013 Charlotte Douglas International Airport ranked as the 23rd busiest airport in the world.
North Carolina has a growing passenger rail system with Amtrak serving most major cities. Charlotte is also home to North Carolina's only light rail system known as the Lynx.
Every year the Appalachian Mountains attract several million tourists to the Western part of the state, including the historic Biltmore Estate. The scenic Blue Ridge Parkway and Great Smoky Mountains National Park are the two most visited national park and unit in the United States with over 25 million visitors in 2013. The City of Asheville is consistently voted as one of the top places to visit and live in the United States, known for its rich art deco architecture, mountain scenery and outdoor activities, and liberal and happy residents.
In Raleigh many tourists visit the Capital, African American Cultural Complex, Contemporary Art Museum of Raleigh, Gregg Museum of Art & Design at NCSU, Haywood Hall House & Gardens, Marbles Kids Museum, North Carolina Museum of Art, North Carolina Museum of History, North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame, Raleigh City Museum, J. C. Raulston Arboretum, Joel Lane House, Mordecai House, Montfort Hall, and the Pope House Museum. The Carolina Hurricanes NHL hockey team is also located in the city.
In the Charlotte area, amenities include the Carolina Panthers NFL football team and Charlotte Hornets basketball team, Carowinds amusement park, Charlotte Motor Speedway, U.S. National Whitewater Center, and the Discovery Place. Nearby Concord has the Great Wolf Lodge and Sea Life Aquarium.
In the Conover – Hickory area, Hickory Motor Speedway, RockBarn Golf and Spa, home of the Greater Hickory Classic at Rock Barn; Catawba County Firefighters Museum, and SALT Block attract many tourists to Conover. Hickory which has Valley Hills Mall.
The Piedmont Triad, or center of the state, is home to Krispy Kreme, Mayberry, Texas Pete, the Lexington Barbecue Festival, and Moravian cookies. The internationally acclaimed North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro attracts visitors to its animals, plants, and a 57-piece art collection along five miles of shaded pathways in the world's largest-land-area natural-habitat park. Seagrove, in the central portion of the state, attracts many tourists along Pottery Highway (NC Hwy 705). MerleFest in Wilkesboro attracts more than 80,000 people to its four-day music festival; and Wet 'n Wild Emerald Pointe water park in Greensboro is another attraction.
The Outer Banks and surrounding beaches attract millions of people to the Atlantic beaches every year.
The mainland northeastern part of the state, having recently adopted the name the Inner Banks, is also known as the Albemarle Region, for the Albemarle Settlements, some of the first settlements on North Carolina's portion of the Atlantic Coastal Plain. The regions historic sites are connected by the Historic Albemarle Tour.
North Carolina provides a large range of recreational activities, from swimming at the beach to skiing in the mountains. North Carolina offers fall colors, freshwater and saltwater fishing, hunting, birdwatching, agritourism, ATV trails, ballooning, rock climbing, biking, hiking, skiing, boating and sailing, camping, canoeing, caving (spelunking), gardens, and arboretums. North Carolina has theme parks, aquariums, museums, historic sites, lighthouses, elegant theaters, concert halls, and fine dining.
North Carolinians enjoy outdoor recreation utilizing numerous local bike paths, 34 state parks, and 14 national parks. National Park Service units include the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, the Blue Ridge Parkway, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Cape Lookout National Seashore, Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site at Flat Rock, Fort Raleigh National Historic Site at Manteo, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Guilford Courthouse National Military Park in Greensboro, Moores Creek National Battlefield near Currie in Pender County, the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail, Old Salem National Historic Site in Winston-Salem, the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail, and Wright Brothers National Memorial in Kill Devil Hills. National Forests include Uwharrie National Forest in central North Carolina, Croatan National Forest in Eastern North Carolina, Pisgah National Forest in the northern mountains, and Nantahala National Forest in the southwestern part of the state.
Arts and culture
North Carolina has rich traditions in art, music, and cuisine. The nonprofit arts and culture industry generates $1.2 billion in direct economic activity in North Carolina, supporting more than 43,600 full-time equivalent jobs and generating $119 million in revenue for local governments and the state of North Carolina. North Carolina established the North Carolina Museum of Art as the first major museum collection in the country to be formed by state legislation and funding and continues to bring millions into the NC economy. Also see this list of museums in North Carolina.
One of the more famous arts communities in the state is Seagrove, the handmade-pottery capital of the U.S., where artisans create handcrafted pottery inspired by the same traditions that began in this community more than 200 years ago. With nearly 100 shops and galleries scattered throughout the area, visitors can find everything from traditional tableware to folk and collectible art pieces and historical reproductions.
North Carolina boasts a large number of noteworthy jazz musicians, some among the most important in the history of the genre. These include: John Coltrane, (Hamlet, High Point); Thelonious Monk (Rocky Mount); Billy Taylor (Greenville); Woody Shaw (Laurinburg); Lou Donaldson (Durham); Max Roach (Newland); Tal Farlow (Greensboro); Albert, Jimmy and Percy Heath (Wilmington); Nina Simone (Tryon); and Billy Strayhorn (Hillsborough).
North Carolina is also famous for its tradition of old-time music, and many recordings were made in the early 20th century by folk-song collector Bascom Lamar Lunsford. Musicians such as the North Carolina Ramblers helped solidify the sound of country music in the late 1920s, while the influential bluegrass musician Doc Watson also hailed from North Carolina. Both North and South Carolina are hotbeds for traditional rural blues, especially the style known as the Piedmont blues.
The British band Pink Floyd is named, in part, after Chapel Hill bluesman Floyd Council.
Cuisine and agriculture
A culinary staple of North Carolina is pork barbecue.
Ships named for the state
Several ships have been named after the state. Most famous is the USS North Carolina, a World War II battleship. The ship served in several battles against the forces of Imperial Japan in the Pacific theater during the war. Now decommissioned, it is part of the USS North Carolina Battleship Memorial in Wilmington. Another USS North Carolina, a nuclear attack submarine, was commissioned in Wilmington, NC, on May 3, 2008.
|North Carolina state symbols|
|Insect||Western honey bee
|Mammal||Eastern Gray Squirrel|
|Reptile||Eastern Box Turtle|
|Colors||red and blue|
|Motto||Esse quam videri
("To be, rather than to seem")
|Shell||Scotch bonnet (sea snail)|
|Slogan||First Flight (unofficial)|
|Song||"The Old North State (song)"|
|State route marker|
Released in 2001
|Lists of United States state symbols|
- State motto: Esse quam videri ("To be, rather than to seem") (1893)
- State song: "The Old North State" (1927)
- State flower: Dogwood (1941)
- State bird: Cardinal (1943)
- State colors: The red and blue of the N.C. and U.S. flags (1945)
- State toast: "The Tar Heel Toast" (1957)
- State tree: Pine (Pinus) (1963)
- State shell: Scotch bonnet (1965)
- State mammal: Eastern gray squirrel (1969)
- State salt water fish: Red drum (also known as the channel bass) (1971)
- State insect: European honey bee (1973)
- State gemstone: Emerald (1973)
- State reptile: Eastern box turtle (1979)
- State rock: Granite (1979)
- State beverage: Milk (1987)
- State historical boat: Shad boat (1987)
- State language: English (1987)
- State dog: Plott Hound (1989)
- State military academy: Oak Ridge Military Academy (1991)
- State tartan: Carolina Tartan (1991)
- State vegetable: Sweet potato (1995)
- State red berry: Strawberry (2001)
- State blue berry: Blueberry (2001)
- State fruit: Scuppernong grape (2001)
- State wildflower: Carolina lily (2003)
- State Christmas tree: Fraser fir (2005)
- State carnivorous plant: Venus flytrap (2005)
- State folk dance: Clogging (2005)
- State popular dance: Carolina shag (2005)
- State birthplace of traditional pottery: The Seagrove area (2005)
- State sport: NASCAR (2011)
Images for kids
A lesson at Kituwah Academy on the Qualla Boundary in North Carolina. The language immersion school, operated by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, teaches the same curriculum as other state primary schools, but the Native American Cherokee language is the medium of instruction from pre-school on up and students learn it as a first language. Such schools have proven instrumental in the preservation and perpetuation of the Cherokee language.
John White returns to find the colony abandoned.
Union captures Fort Fisher, 1865
North Carolina Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.