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North Carolina (NC) Fast Facts
Location and Geography: North Carolina is located along the eastern coastline of the United States, right between the states of Virginia and South Carolina. Though it is considered to be a part of the American South culturally and geographically, North Carolina’s central position has facilitated mixed sentiments on many issues, both historically and in the modern day.
Counties and Regions: The number of counties in North Carolina is set at exactly 100. It covers a geographical area that is vast in its diversity. The more generally recognized regions could be summed up as:
- Appalachian Foothills
- Fayetteville Metropolitan Area
- High Country (Appalachian Mountains)
- Inner Banks (inner coastline)
- Land of the Sky
- Lower Cape Fear
- Metropolitan Charlotte (Metrolina)
- Metropolitan Piedmont Triad
- Outer Banks (outer coastline)
- The Research Triangle (central North Carolina)
Population: North Carolina is home to greater than 9.5 million people, placing it in the top ten most-populated states. Its population is increasingly urban-dwelling, especially in its eastern coastal regions.
Major Cities: North Carolina’s largest city is Charlotte, with more than 1.7 million people contained within its metropolitan area. Its capital, the city of Raleigh, is the second-largest city in the state and is part of the metropolitan area known as the Research Triangle, which has a population comparable in size to that of Charlotte’s.
Story Behind the Name: Charles II of England, who awarded the land that made up the Province of Carolina to some of his supporters, named it after his father, Charles I (the Latin version of the name “Charles” is “Carolus,” from which “Carolina” is derived).
History and Colonization: The early colonial days were difficult for Europeans in what would later become North Carolina. Though Spanish, French, and Italian explorers came across it in the sixteenth century, it was the English who would first try to settle it. Friendly relationships with the local Native Americans were not cultivated early on, and several colonies fell to disease, starvation, and armed conflicts with hostile natives. One of these, the famous Roanoke colony, actually vanished without a trace, and what really occurred there remains a mystery.
Over time, what was called the Province of Carolina began to split into northern and southern portions. The political split came on the heels of an existing cultural one, and the territories of North Carolina and South Carolina were officially broken apart long before the American Revolution. During the Revolutionary War, North Carolina was a stronghold of Patriot sympathies and went on to become one of the Thirteen Original Colonies that ratified the Constitution of the United States.
North Carolina has been a very agrarian state throughout much of its history. Though the plantation culture was never quite as strong there as in other areas of the American South, African-American slaves made up more than a third of the state’s population by the time of the Civil War. North Carolina was nearer to the border than states in the Deep South and joined the Confederacy more reluctantly, but ended up sending more men per capita to fight the Union than any other Southern state. After the Confederacy’s defeat, North Carolina suffered economically along with the other Southern states. The hardships of the Reconstruction years led to an eventual hardening of racist sentiments, and the prevalence of Jim Crow laws kept many of the state’s citizens from exercising their human rights.
The Civil Rights Movement of the twentieth century was a major catalyst for change in North Carolina. The famous sit-in protest at Woolworth’s, among other actions, led to the passage of the Civil Rights Act and the repealing of most of the Jim Crow laws. Over the decades, North Carolina’s economy has been undergoing a slow switch from an agriculturally-based one into a service- and technology-based one. The urban areas of the state, therefore, have seen the most rapid population growth.