North Carolina State Study

North CarolinaJoin us for a North Carolina State Study.  Learn the history in brief, do some activities, color a map, and branch out into additional layers of topics.

Geography

North Carolina is located along the eastern shore of North America, bordering the Atlantic Ocean.  It is south of Virginia and north of South Carolina.  The western portion of the state includes highlands and mountains of the Appalachian range.  The central part is known as the Piedmont, a plateau between the Appalachians and the coastal plain.  The Coastal plain covers almost half of North Carolina.  It is a low lying plain, drained by many rivers and covered with many wetlands.

North Carolina is a beautiful state with many outdoor recreation opportunities from kayaking and canoeing, spelunking, hiking, swimming, fishing, hunting, atv-ing, and camping.  There are 34 state parks and 13 national parks.

The climate is tempered by the Atlantic Ocean, mild year round with summer highs in the 80s most of the time and winter day time temperatures usually in the 50s.  The Atlantic Plain is wet and often gets hit with tropical storms and occasionally hurricanes.  As you move inland the temperatures are less affected by the ocean and reach both higher in the summer and lower in the winter.  The Appalachian region receives snowfall every winter.  And the Piedmont region is known for its ice storms and freezing rain.

This is a topographic map showing the different regions of North Carolina. Image in the public domain.

History

North and South Carolina were claimed by the English throne as the Province of Carolina in 1629. They were named after Charles I, the father of Charles II, the English king who issued the charter.  In 1729 the northern and southern regions split to become North Carolina and South Carolina.  During the colonial days most settlers were subsistence farmers and the few towns were very small.  There was very little slavery.  After the Revolutionary War North Carolina began to attract cotton farmers and big plantations sprung up along the coastal regions and slavery became a big factor in the economy.  Free blacks moved west to avoid discrimination.

The Eno River in the Piedmont region.  Photo by Smithfl, CC license, Wikimedia.

North Carolina was the last of the southern states to secede during the Civil War and was reluctant to follow direction from the Confederate government, but they lost over 40,000 men in the war, more than any other Southern State. After the war, northerners controlled the government of South Carolina for three years, but the Ku Klux Klan used violence and intimidation to regain Democrat control and destroy the tentatively gained rights of the newly freed slaves.  This intimidation and campaign of murder continued through the rest of the 1800’s.  In the 1930s blacks lost all rights to vote when poll taxes and reading tests became required.  They were systematically and purposefully prevented from making a living, getting an education, or having any say in their government.  The thriving middle class of blacks in North Carolina disappeared into poverty.  The Civil Rights movement of the 1960s changed that and forced North Carolina to reform her laws and practices.

Today North Carolina is a political swing state, sometimes narrowly electing Democrats and sometimes narrowly electing Republicans.  North Carolina struggled economically up until the years following WWII.  Since then the economy has taken off and today North Carolina’s cities are some of the fastest growing the country.

Charlotte, North Carolina skyline. Charlotte is the largest city in North Carolina. Image by Riction, CC license, Wikimedia.

 

Fabulous Facts

  • The Wright brothers flew their first plane on a windy beach in North Carolina.
  • North Carolina is known as the Tar Heel State and the Old North State.  No one knows now where the nickname “tar heel” came from , but some speculate it was because of the tar, pitch, and turpentine which was created in the pine forests of North Carolina and was one of the states biggest exports in early American days.
  • In the late 1600s and early 1700’s pirates plagued the coast of North Carolina and many a sea port was burned and looted.  Raleigh was finally chosen as the capital because it was far enough from the coast to not be plundered.
  • Cape Hatteras Lighthouse.  Image by Henryhartley, CC license, Wikimedia.

    In 1999 the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, a National Park Service Historic Site, was moved.  The shore underneath it was eroding and threatening the collapse of the lighthouse and keepers home.

  • Mississippian culture mound builders thrived in North Carolina from about 1000AD to 1600AD. They were replaced by the Cherokee tribes before English settlers ever met the natives.
  • The lost colony of Roanoke was located in North Carolina.  Virginia Dare, the first baby born in the New World to English parents was born there and Dare County, North Carolina is named after her.
  • North Carolina has a population of about 9.8 million, the 10th largest population among the United States.
  • North Carolina is the home of the Krispy Kreme doughnut and Pepsi cola.
  • The Venus flytrap is a carnivorous plant native to the sub-tropical wetlands of the North Carolina coast.

Explorations

  • North Carolina is full of beautiful beaches, gorgeous hiking trails, and amazing lakes and rivers.  Plan an outdoor trip to North Carolina.  Put together an itinerary with pictures of the places you’ll visit and a road map showing how you’ll get there.
  • The North Carolina Zoo is one of the most celebrated in the world.  It is owned by the state of North Carolina and has over 1600 animals on over 2000 acres.  Schedule a trip to see it if you can.
  • Seagrove, North Carolina is famous for its colony of potters.  Originally dedicated to functional pottery, the industry died off with the Industrial Revolution, but today the area thrives as a tourist destination for decorative pottery.  Look at this gallery featuring this art and then make a pinch pot of clay yourself.
  • Pork Barbecue is the iconic state cuisine of North Carolina.  Make some yourself.

Map of North Carolina

Print, label and color this North Carolina Map.

 Additional Layers

  • Cape Hatteras and other islands along the North Carolina Coast are barrier islands.  Find out what barrier islands are and where else in the world they are located.
  • Learn more about the Cherokee of North Carolina and what happened to them.
  • Learn more about one of the devastating hurricanes of North Carolina history: Isabel, Hugo, Fran, Floyd, Hazel.

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