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Vance County
Postcard. Vance County Courthouse
Postcard. Vance County Courthouse
Official seal of Vance County
Map of North Carolina highlighting Vance County
Location within the U.S. state of North Carolina
Map of the United States highlighting North Carolina
North Carolina's location within the U.S.
Country  United States
State  North Carolina
Founded 1881
Named for Zebulon Baird Vance
Seat Henderson
Largest city Henderson
 • Total 270 sq mi (700 km2)
 • Land 254 sq mi (660 km2)
 • Water 16 sq mi (40 km2)  6.0%%
 • Estimate 
 • Density 166.1/sq mi (64.1/km2)
Time zone UTC−5 (Eastern)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−4 (EDT)
Congressional district 1st
Vance county flag
Vance County flag.

Vance County is a county located in the U.S. state of North Carolina. As of the 2020 census, the population was 42,578. Its county seat is Henderson.

Vance County comprises the Henderson, NC Micropolitan Statistical Area, which is also included in the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill, NC Combined Statistical Area, which had a 2012 estimated population of 1,998,808.


The county was formed by the white Democratic-dominated legislature in 1881 following the Reconstruction Era from parts of Franklin, Granville, and Warren counties. The county is named after Zebulon Baird Vance, a Governor of North Carolina (1862–65 & 1877–79) and United States Senator (1879–94).

According to the 1955 book, Zeb's Black Baby, by Samuel Thomas Peace, Sr., this was a political decision to concentrate blacks and Republicans in one county and keep Democratic majorities in the other counties, an example of gerrymandering:

The formation of Vance County was accomplished largely as a political expediency. It was in 1881 when Blacks in large numbers were voting solidly Republican. Granville and Franklin Counties were nip and tuck, Democratic or Republican. From the Democratic standpoint, Warren County was hopelessly Republican. But by taking from Granville, Franklin and Warren, those sections that were heavily Republican and out of these sections forming the new county of Vance, the Democratic party could lose Vance to the Republicans and save Granville and Franklin for the Democrats. [U.S.] Senator Vance was a Democrat. He took kindly to this move and thanked the [North Carolina] Legislature for honoring him with naming the new county after him. At the same time...Vance showed his humor by always referring to Vance County as 'Zeb's Black Baby.'

In the 1890 Census, Vance County was more than 63 percent African American. In 1894 a biracial coalition of Populists and Republicans elected African American George M. White to the US Congress and gained control of the state house. The Democrats were determined to forestall this happening again. White strongly opposed the new constitution, saying "I cannot live in North Carolina and be a man and be treated as a man." He left the state after his second term expired, setting up a business in Washington, DC.

The Democrats in the North Carolina legislature settled the political competition with the Republicans by following other southern states and passing a law in 1896 making voting more difficult, and a new constitution in 1899 that disfranchised most blacks by poll taxes, literacy tests and grandfather clauses. Contemporary accounts estimated that 75,000 black male citizens of the state lost the vote. In 1900 blacks numbered 630,207 citizens, about 33% of the state's total population. This situation held until past the mid-20th century and after passage of the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965.


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 270 square miles (700 km2), of which 254 square miles (660 km2) is land and 16 square miles (41 km2) (6.0%) is water.

Kerr Lake and Kerr Lake State Recreation Area are partially located in Vance County.

Adjacent counties

Major highways

  • I-85
  • US 1
  • US 158
  • NC 39


Historical population
Census Pop.
1890 17,581
1900 16,684 −5.1%
1910 19,425 16.4%
1920 22,799 17.4%
1930 27,294 19.7%
1940 29,961 9.8%
1950 32,101 7.1%
1960 32,002 −0.3%
1970 32,691 2.2%
1980 36,748 12.4%
1990 38,892 5.8%
2000 42,954 10.4%
2010 45,422 5.7%
Est. 2021 42,185 −7.1%
U.S. Decennial Census
1790-1960 1900-1990
1990-2000 2010-2013

When originally established in 1881, the population of Vance County was approximately 9,000. From 1930 through 1970, the rural county population declined and growth slowed markedly as many blacks migrated to the North for better jobs and other opportunities in the Great Migration. Combined with other economic changes, this resulted in the county losing what had been its large African-American majority by the late 20th century. In the early 21st century, the white and black populations are nearly equal.

2020 census

Vance County racial composition
Race Number Percentage
White (non-Hispanic) 16,243 38.15%
Black or African American (non-Hispanic) 21,081 49.51%
Native American 91 0.21%
Asian 284 0.67%
Pacific Islander 9 0.02%
Other/Mixed 1,153 2.71%
Hispanic or Latino 3,717 8.73%

As of the 2020 United States census, there were 42,578 people, 16,875 households, and 11,163 families residing in the county.


Map of Vance County North Carolina With Municipal and Township Labels
Map of Vance County, North Carolina With Municipal and Township Labels



Census-designated place

Unincorporated communities

  • Adcock Crossroads
  • Bearpond
  • Bobbitt
  • Brookston
  • Bullocksville
  • Cokesbury
  • Dabney
  • Drewry
  • Epsom
  • Faulkner Crossroads
  • Floytan Crossroads
  • Gill
  • Gillburg
  • Greenway
  • Greystone
  • Harris Crossroads
  • Hicks Crossroads
  • Knotts Crossroads
  • Nutbush
  • Townsville
  • Tungsten
  • Watkins
  • Weldons Mill
  • Williamsboro


  • Dabney
  • Henderson
  • Kittrell
  • Middleburg
  • Sandy Creek
  • Townsville
  • Watkins
  • Williamsboro


See also: Vance County Public Schools
  • Vance County Schools
  • Henderson Collegiate (public charter school, opened in the Summer of 2010)
  • Vance Charter School
  • Kerr-Vance Academy (founded in 1968)
  • Crossroads Christian School
  • Victory Christian Academy
  • Vance-Granville Community College

Historical schools

  • Henderson Male Academy (whites only)
  • Henderson Female Academy (whites only)
  • Kittrell College, It was established as Kittrell Industrial Normal School for black males by the North Carolina General Assembly on March 7, 1787. It was renamed Kittrell Normal and Industrial Institute on January 30, 1889. It was renamed Kittrell College in 1901. It was closed in 1931 and then reopened from 1934 to 1948. It was operated as a high school from 1953 to 1965 and college from 1953 to 1975 when it was permanently closed.
  • Middleburg Male Academy (also called Middleburg School, whites only, founded by Albert Anderson in the late 1800s)
  • Townesville School (whites only)
  • West End School

Notable people associated with Vance County

  • Rufus Sidney McCoin (1872 – ?) (representative of Vance County)
  • Henry P. Cheatham (1857–1935), one of only five African Americans elected to Congress from the South in the Jim Crow era
  • Ben E. King

Benjamin Earl King[1] (né Nelson; September 28, 1938 – April 30, 2015) was an American soul and R&B singer and record producer. He is best known as the singer and co-composer of "Stand by Me"—a U.S. Top 10 hit, both in 1961 and later in 1986 (when it was used as the theme to the film of the same name), a number one hit in the United Kingdom in 1987, and number 25 on the RIAA's list of Songs of the Century—and as one of the principal lead singers of the R&B vocal group The Drifters, notably singing the lead vocals of one of their biggest global hit singles (and only U.S. No. 1 hit), "Save the Last Dance for Me".[2]

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