North Carolina

Cities

North Carolina

North Carolina is a state in the Southeastern region of the United States. The state is the 28th largest and 9th-most populous of the 50 United States. It is bordered by Virginia to the north, the Atlantic Ocean to the east, Georgia and South Carolina to the south, and Tennessee to the west. Raleigh is the state’s capital and Charlotte is its largest city. The Charlotte metropolitan area, with an estimated population of 2,569,213 in 2018, is the most-populous metropolitan area in North Carolina, the 23rd-most populous in the United States, and the largest banking center in the nation after New York City. The Raleigh-Durham-Cary combined statistical area is the second-largest metropolitan area in the state, with an estimated population of 2,079,687 in 2019, and is home to the largest research park in the United States, Research Triangle Park.

Geography

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 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 a thousand 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 Blue Ridge Mountains of the larger Appalachian Mountain range. Among the subranges of the Blue Ridge Mountains located in the state are the Great Smoky Mountains and the 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.

Climate

Elevation above sea level is most responsible for temperature change across the state, with the mountainous regions 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 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.

Parks and Recreation

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.

Most Populous Counties

In 2020, the U.S. Census Bureau released its annual population estimate counts for North Carolina’s counties. Wake County has the largest population, while Mecklenburg County has the second largest population in North Carolina.

Largest Combined Statistical Areas

North Carolina has three major Combined Statistical Areas with populations of more than 1.6 million (U.S. Census Bureau 2018 estimates):

  • Charlotte Metro: Charlotte–Concord–Gastonia, North Carolina–South Carolina population 2,728,933
  • Research Triangle: Raleigh–Durham–Chapel Hill, North Carolina population 2,238,315
  • Piedmont Triad: Greensboro–Winston-Salem–High Point, North Carolina population 1,677,551

Demographics

The United States Census Bureau determined the population of North Carolina was 10,439,388 at the 2020 U.S. census. Based on numbers in 2012 of the people residing in North Carolina 58.5% were born there; 33.1% were born in another state; 1.0% were born in Puerto Rico, U.S. island areas, or born abroad to American parent(s); and 7.4% were foreign-born.

Race and ethnicity

At the 2010 U.S. census, the racial composition of North Carolina was: 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%, and Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander: 1%. In 2020, North Carolina like much of the U.S. experienced a decline in its non-Hispanic white population; at the 2020 census, non-Hispanic whites were 62.2%, Blacks or African Americans 20.5%, American Indian and Alaska Natives 1.2%, Asians 3.3%, Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islanders 0.1%, people from other race 5.9%, and multiracial Americans 6.8%.

Languages

North Carolina is home to a spectrum of different dialects of Southern American English and Appalachian English.In 2010, 89.66% (7,750,904) of North Carolina residents age five 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 five and older. In total, 10.34% (893,735) of North Carolina’s population age five and older spoke a mother language other than English. In 2019, 87.7% of the population aged 5 and older spoke English and 12.3% spoke another language. The most common non-English language was Spanish at the 2019 American Community Survey.

Religion

North Carolina residents since the colonial era have historically been overwhelmingly Protestant—first Anglican, then Baptist and Methodist. In 2010, the Southern Baptist Convention was the single largest Christian denomination, with 4,241 churches and 1,513,000 members. The second largest was the United Methodist Church, with 660,000 members and 1,923 churches. The third was the Roman Catholic Church, with 428,000 members in 190 parishes. The fourth largest was the Presbyterian Church (USA), with 186,000 members and 710 congregations; this denomination was brought by Scots-Irish immigrants who settled the backcountry in the colonial era.

A wide variety of non-Christian faiths are practiced by other residents in the state, including: Judaism, Islam, Baháʼí, Buddhism, and Hinduism. The rapid influx of Northerners and immigrants from Latin America is steadily increasing ethnic and religious diversity within the state. The number of Roman Catholics and Jews in the state has increased, along with general religious diversity as a whole. There are also a substantial number of Quakers in Guilford County and northeastern North Carolina. Many universities and colleges in the state have been founded on religious traditions, and some currently maintain that

Economy

North Carolina’s 2018 total gross state product was $496 billion. Based on American Community Survey 2010–2014 data, North Carolina’s median household income was $46,693. It ranked forty-first out of fifty states plus the District of Columbia for median household income. North Carolina had the fourteenth highest poverty rate in the nation at 17.6%, with 13% of families that were below the poverty line.

The state has a very diverse economy because of its great availability of hydroelectric power, its pleasant climate, and its wide variety of soils. The state ranks third among the South Atlantic states in population, but leads the region in industry and agriculture. North Carolina leads the nation in the production of tobacco. Charlotte, the state’s largest city, is a major textile and trade center. According to a Forbes article written in 2013, employment in the “Old North State” has gained many different industry sectors. Science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) industries in the area surrounding North Carolina’s capital have grown 17.9 percent since 2001. Raleigh ranked the third best city for technology in 2020 due to the state’s growing technology sector. In 2010, North Carolina’s total gross state product was $424.9 billion, while the state debt in November 2012, according to one source, totalled $2.4 billion, while according to another, was in 2012 $57.8 billion. In 2011, the civilian labor force was at around 4.5 million with employment near 4.1 million.

Arts and Culture

North Carolina has 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.

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 two hundred years ago.

Music

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. Ben Folds Five originated in Winston-Salem, and Ben Folds still records and resides in Chapel Hill.

Shopping

North Carolina has a variety of shopping choices. SouthPark Mall in Charlotte is currently the largest in the Carolinas, with almost two million square feet. Other major malls in Charlotte include Northlake Mall and Carolina Place Mall in nearby suburb Pineville. Other major malls throughout the state include Hanes Mall in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, The Thruway Center in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Crabtree Valley Mall, North Hills Mall, and Triangle Town Center in Raleigh; Friendly Center and Four Seasons Town Centre in Greensboro; Oak Hollow Mall in High Point; Concord Mills in Concord; Valley Hills Mall in Hickory; Cross Creek Mall in Fayetteville; and The Streets at Southpoint in Durham and Independence Mall in Wilmington, North Carolina, and Tanger Outlets in Charlotte, Nags Head, Blowing Rock, and Mebane, North Carolina.

Cuisine and Agriculture

A culinary staple of North Carolina is pork barbecue. There are strong regional differences and rivalries over the sauces and methods used in making the barbecue. The common trend across Western North Carolina is the use of premium grade Boston butt. Western North Carolina pork barbecue uses a tomato-based sauce, and only the pork shoulder (dark meat) is used. Western North Carolina barbecue is commonly referred to as Lexington barbecue after the Piedmont Triad town of Lexington, home of the Lexington Barbecue Festival, which attracts more than 100,000 visitors each October. Eastern North Carolina pork barbecue uses a vinegar-and-red-pepper-based sauce and the "whole hog" is cooked, thus integrating both white and dark meat.

Tourism

Charlotte is the most-visited city in the state, attracting 28.3 million visitors in 2018. Area attractions include Carolina Panthers NFL football team and Charlotte Hornets basketball team, Carowinds amusement park, Charlotte Motor Speedway, U.S. National Whitewater Center, Discovery Place, Great Wolf Lodge, Sea Life Aquarium, Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, Billy Graham Library, Carolinas Aviation Museum, Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture, Levine Museum of the New South, McColl Center for Art + Innovation, Mint Museum, and the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

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 more than 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.

Education

Primary and Secondary Education

Elementary and secondary public schools are overseen by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction. The North Carolina Superintendent of Public Instruction is the secretary of the North Carolina State Board of Education, but the board, rather than the superintendent, holds most of the legal authority for making public education policy. In 2009, the board's chairman also became the "chief executive officer" for the state's school system.

North Carolina has 115 public school systems, each of which is overseen by a local school board. A county may have one or more systems within it. The largest school systems in North Carolina are the Wake County Public School System, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, Guilford County Schools, Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools, and Cumberland County Schools. In total there are 2,425 public schools in the state, including over 200 charter schools. North Carolina Schools were segregated until the Brown v. Board of Education trial and the release of the Pearsall Plan.

Colleges and Universities

In 1795, North Carolina opened the first public university in the United States—the University of North Carolina (now named the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill). More than 200 years later, the University of North Carolina system encompasses 17 public universities including North Carolina State University, North Carolina A&T State University, North Carolina Central University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, East Carolina University, Western Carolina University,

Winston-Salem State University, the University of North Carolina at Asheville, the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, the University of North Carolina at Pembroke, University of North Carolina at Wilmington, Elizabeth City State University, Appalachian State University, Fayetteville State University, and UNC School of the Arts, and . Along with its public universities, North Carolina has 58 public community colleges in its community college system. The largest university in North Carolina is currently North Carolina State University, with more than 34,000 students.

North Carolina is also home to many well-known private colleges and universities, including Duke University, Wake Forest University, Pfeiffer University, Lees-McRae College, Davidson College, Barton College, North Carolina Wesleyan College, Elon University, Guilford College, Livingstone College, Salem College, Shaw University (the first historically black college or university in the South), Laurel University, William Peace University, Meredith College, Methodist University, Belmont Abbey College (the only Catholic college in the Carolinas), Campbell University, University of Mount Olive, Montreat College, High Point University, Lenoir-Rhyne University (the only Lutheran university in North Carolina) and Wingate University.

Transportation

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, which serves as the second busiest hub for American Airlines, 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.

Media

Early newspapers were established in the eastern part of North Carolina in the mid-18th century. The Fayetteville Observer, established in 1816, is the oldest newspaper still in publication in North Carolina. The Wilmington Star-News, established 1867, is the oldest continuously running newspaper. As of January 1, 2020, there were approximately 240 North Carolina newspapers in publication in the state of North Carolina.

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