Geography and Landforms:

North Carolina has three distinct topological areas: The Coastal Plain, the Piedmont Plateau and the Blue Ridge/Appalachian Mountains.

The Coastal Plain, bordered on the east by many beaches, offers opportunities for farming, recreation, and manufacturing. The leading crops of this area are bright leaf tobacco, peanuts, soybeans, and sweet potatoes. Large forested areas, mostly pine, support pulp manufacturing and other forest-related industries. The coast boasts extensive commercial and sport fishing, and thousands of tourists visit the state's many beaches. A slender, fragile chain of islands known as the Outer Banks protects the North Carolina coast.

The Appalachian Mountains region includes more than 200 mountains that exceed 5,000 feet or more. In this area, widely acclaimed for its beauty, tourism is an outstanding business. The valleys and some of the hillsides serve as small farms and apple orchards; and here and there are business enterprises, ranging from small craft shops to large paper and rayon manufacturing plants.

The Piedmont Plateau, though dotted with many small rolling farms, is primarily a manufacturing area in which the chief industries are furniture, tobacco, and textiles. North Carolina's six largest cities: Charlotte, Raleigh, Greensboro, Winston-Salem, Durham, and Fayetteville are in this region. The southeastern section of the Piedmont is known as the Sandhills where peaches grow in abundance. The Sandhills, with its nationally famous golf courses and stables, is well known as a winter resort area.


The first known exploration of North Carolina by a European came in the summer of 1524 when Giovanni da Verrazano, an Italian explorer serving the country of France, traveled through the coastal area of the state between the Cape Fear River near Wilmington and the area now known as Kitty Hawk. Between 1540 and 1570, several Spanish explorers came north from the Florida Gulf regions and traveled through North Carolina. These explorers did not establish any permanent settlements.

Finally, in the 1580s, coastal North Carolina became the site of the first attempts to settle areas of the New World by Europeans. Sir Walter Raleigh, working under a charter granted by Queen Elizabeth of England made both attempts. The first colony, headed by Ralph Lane in 1585, failed. The second colony, led by John White, began in the spring of 1587. One hundred and ten settlers, including seventeen women and nine children, landed in Hatteras that summer. They then continued on to Roanoke Island where a few structures left by the first colonists still stood. It was at this settlement that the first child born to English-speaking settlers was born. The child was named Virginia Dare.

The colony faced great difficulty, however, and John White returned to England for more supplies. Unfortunately, the attack on England by the Spanish Armada made it impossible for White to return to the colony until 1590. When he arrived, he found only the remnants of the settlement, no signs of the settlers, and the puzzling word "CROATAN" carved on a tree. To this day, no one is sure what became of the settlers of the "Lost Colony" of Roanoke.

The next group to come to North Carolina had originally settled in nearby Virginia and moved southward around 1650. Then, in 1663, Charles II of England granted a charter to eight English gentlemen who had assisted him in gaining the throne of England. Charles made these men Lords Proprietors of the land, which was named "Carolina" after King Charles I (the Latin form of Charles is "Carolus"). Between 1692 and 1712, the colonies of North and South Carolina existed as one governmental unit, with the governor living in Charleston, South Carolina, and appointing a deputy governor for North Carolina. In 1729, the descendents of the original Lords Proprietors sold their rights to North Carolina back to the king of England, and North Carolina became a royal colony.

In 1776, delegates to the Continental Congress from North Carolina were authorized by a document called the Halifax Resolves to vote for independence from England, and a group called the Provincial Congress wrote the first Constitution for the state of North Carolina in December of 1776. In 1789, North Carolina became the twelfth state to adopt the Constitution of the United States.

The next year, in 1790, North Carolina ceded seven of its westernmost counties to the federal government, and the area became known as the Tennessee territory. In 1796, these counties became the 16th state of the union, Tennessee.

Although the people of the state of North Carolina were much divided on the issue, the state voted to secede from the Union on May 20, 1861. Although North Carolina was not wealthy, the state supplied more men and more material to the Confederate cause during the Civil War, and suffered more casualties than any of the other southern states. Following the war, North Carolina was readmitted to the Union in 1868.


North Carolina's economy has grown far more diverse in recent years. The new economic leaders are in the technology and service sectors, which are growing rapidly. However, traditional industries such as agriculture and textile production have helped to make North Carolina the largest agricultural and industrial producer in the Southeastern United States.

The top ten industries in the state are real estate, health services, chemicals, construction, tobacco products, banking, textiles, utilities, transportation and agriculture.

North Carolina is one of the largest film-making states in the nation. It is second nationally in the number of production studios and sound stages, with seven production studios and 30 soundstages. Locals sometimes refer to the town of Wilmington as the "Hollywood of the East." In addition, tourism is an important source of income for the state.

First Inhabitants:

When the first Europeans explored North Carolina, the area was home to a large number of native tribes. These tribes fall into three groups based upon their native languages: Iroquois (including the Cherokee, Tuscarora, Meherrin, Coree, and Neuse River tribes), Algonquin (including the Bear River, Chowan, Hatteras, Nachapunga, Moratok, Pamlico, Secotan, and Weapomeoc tribes), and Siouan (including the Cape Fear, Catawba, Cheraw, Eno, Keyauwee, Occaneechi, Saponi, Shakori, Sissipahaw, Sugaree, Tutelo, Waccamaw, Wateree, Waxhaw, and Woccon tribes). The Iroquois tribes inhabited the mountains in the western portion of the state. The Siouan tribes lived in the central piedmont area, and the Algonquin tribes lived in the southern tidewater area.

Experts believe approximately 7,000 coastal Algonquin people lived in the area prior to contact with Europeans in the 16th century. Many of these had migrated from the north. There were probably around 6,000 people from Siouan tribes, although we know very little about these groups prior to the settlement of Europeans. They seem to have been a loosely connected alliance of tribes who eventually joined with the Catawba tribe. The largest of the three groups of natives was the Cherokee, a part of the Iroquois tribes, who had probably migrated southward into the Appalachian Mountains prior to the time of Columbus' exploration of the New World.

Books Related To North Carolina

Blackbeard's Last Fight - Eric Kimmel
(978-0374307806) , Fiction
Interest level: 1-4, Lexile: 670, ESL level: 2 - 3
When the Royal Navy illegally attacks infamous pirate Blackbeard's ship, a fictional cabin boy assists and observes the outlaw's execution.

Blue - Joyce Moyer Hostetter
(978-1590788356) , Fiction
Interest level: 4-9, Lexile: 780, ESL level: 3 - 4
A teen girl must assume the role of head of the family while her father is at war, her family suffers a tragedy, and the nation is facing a polio epidemic.

Dovey Coe - Frances O'Roark Dowell
(978-0689846670) , Fiction
Interest level: 4-12, Lexile: 980, ESL level: 4
Dovey's character becomes even stronger and her empathy increases toward her deaf brother despite her being accused of murder.

Fallout - Trudy Krisher
(978-0823420353) , Fiction
Interest level: 6-12, Lexile: 890, ESL level: 4 - 5
A young teen who moves to North Carolina during the nuclear war-crazed 50's finds new friends and helps her pals to see things in a new way.

Freedom on the Menu: The Greensboro Sit-Ins - Carole Boston Weatherford
(978-0142408940) , Fiction
Interest level: 0-8, Lexile: 660, ESL level: 3
A young African American girl watches the famous Greensboro, North Carolina sit-in with great interest.

Gentle's Holler - Kerry Madden
(670-059986) , Fiction
Interest level: 3-12, Lexile: 950, ESL level: 4
Although Livy would love to use her songwriting and musical talents to see the world and get away from the poverty her family suffers, she recognizes the need to help the family first.

How to Steal a Dog - Barbara O'Connor
(978-0312561123) , Fiction
Interest level: 2-7, Lexile: 700, ESL level: 3
Georgina's family is living in a car after their father deserts them; she develops some unsavory schemes to make money to help the family.

Jack Adrift: Fourth Grade without a Clue - Jack Gantos
(978-0374437183) , Fiction
Interest level: 2-7, Lexile: 730, ESL level: 3
Jack moves with his Navy father to North Carolina where Jack encounters many puzzling situations.

The Legend of Buddy Bush - Shelia Moses
(978-1416907169) , Fiction
Interest level: 6-12, Lexile: 760, ESL level: 3
Twelve-year-old Pattie May finds her plans to escape from North Carolina to Harlem in a snafu when her uncle is arrested and her grandfather finds he has a brain tumor.

Listen! - Stephanie Tolan
(978-0060579357) , Fiction
Interest level: 4-8, Lexile: 910, ESL level: 4
Carley's newly found dog helps ease her recovery from an accident and her mother's death.

Rescue on the Outer Banks - Candice Ransom
(978-0876148150) , Fiction
Interest level: 1-3, Lexile: 450, ESL level: 2 - 3
Based on the true story of African American rescuers based in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, this exciting story tells the tale of how a young boy and his horse aid a rescue team.

Storm Warriors - Elisa Carbone
(978-0440418795) , Fiction
Interest level: 4-12, Lexile: 890, ESL level: 4
Nathan is attracted to the service of the African American crew at the shoreline lifesaving station, despite getting no encouragement from his family.

T is for Tar Heel: A North Carolina Alphabet - Carol Crane
(978-1585360826) , Non-fiction
Interest level: 0-2, ESL level: 1 - 2
This book features all the things that are special about the state of North Carolina.

Famous Citizens:

Dale Earnhart
Dale Earnhardt, born in Kannapolis, North Carolina, dropped out of school in ninth grade to pursue a career in auto racing. Known for his aggressive driving style, and dubbed "The Intimidator," Earnhardt dominated the sport through the 1980's and early 1990's. In addition to his seven Winston Cups, he won three IROC championships, was twice named American Driver of the Year, and five times named the National Motorsports Press Association Driver of the Year. Dale Earnhardt was killed in the final lap of the 2001 Daytona 500 on February 18, 200l, at the age of 49.

Andrew Johnson
Born in Raleigh, North Carolina, in 1808, Andrew Johnson grew up uneducated and in poverty. At the age of 13 he was apprenticed to a tailor. Two years later, Johnson ran away from home and eventually opened a tailor shop in Greenville, Tennessee. Johnson became mayor of Greenville at the age of 22, served in the Tennessee assembly for six years, was a congressman from 1843 - 1853 and became the governor of Tennessee in 1853. Although he was a Southerner, Johnson opposed secession and remained in the Senate even when Tennessee left the Union. He served as Vice President under Abraham Lincoln, and President after Lincoln's death.

Michael Jordan
Michael Jordan may have been born in Brooklyn, but the Jordan family moved to North Carolina when Michael Jordan was very small and he grew up in Wilmington. He played at the University of North Carolina and was twice College Player of the Year.

After being picked by the Chicago Bulls in the 1984 NBA Draft, Jordan was named NBA Rookie of the Year in his first season. He broke many of the league records in scoring and steals, and in the meantime, added two Olympic Gold Medals from the 1984 and 1992 Games. After his retirement in 1998, he became part owner of the Washington Wizards basketball team. In 2001, he resigned his position as head of basketball operations in order to become an active player again.

James Polk
James Polk, was born in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina. Polk graduated with honors in 1818 from the University of North Carolina. As a young lawyer, he served in the Tennessee legislature and was elected to seven terms in Congress. He became Speaker of the House at the age of 40 and was elected governor of Tennessee four years later.
At the Democratic Convention in 1844, supporters of Marin Van Buren counted on Polk as the vice-presidential candidate. But Van Buren lost the support of the South when he opposed the annexation of Texas. Polk quickly became the Party's choice for president and he won the election against Republican Henry Clay, becoming the eleventh president of the United States in 1845.
After a series of disputes over boundaries in the Southwest, President Polk declared war against Mexico in 1846. As a result, a vast area of land was added to the United States. But despite his success, the acquisition of this land started a bitter quarrel between the North and the South over the expansion of slavery.
Polk served only one term as president and left the White House in March of 1849. He died in Nashville, on June 15, 1849, at the age of 53.

Hiram Rhoades Revels
Hiram Revels began his life in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Born a free man of African American and Indian descent, he became the first African American member of Congress.
Revels studied at the Quaker school in Liberty, Indiana and attended Knox College in Ohio. He became an ordained minister of the African Methodist Church and traveled extensively to African American congregations in Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri, and Kansas. Revels settled in Baltimore in 1845 where he became principal of a school for African Americans as well as pastor of a local church.
During the Civil War, Revels assisted in organizing black volunteers for service in the Union Army and then joined federal forces himself. He was stationed in Mississippi as chaplain to a black regiment. After the war, Revels was appointed alderman by the military governor and was later elected to the state senate. His goal as senator was to restore political rights to former confederates. In 1870, he became the first African American elected to the United States Senate. Senator Revels supported desegregation in education and on the railroads. After his term in the Senate ended, Revels became president of Alcorn Agricultural and Mechanical College in Mississippi.

Capital: Raleigh
Entered Union: November 21, 1789
Population: 9,943,964
Area 53,819
Bird Cardinal
Flower American Dogwood
Nickname: Old North State
Governor Pat McCrory

Places to Visit in North Carolina: (Click the links to learn more.)

Battleship North Carolina - Wilmington
At the time of her commissioning on April 9, 1941, she was considered the world's greatest sea weapon. During World War II, North Carolina participated in every major naval offensive in the Pacific area of operations and earned 15 battle stars. After serving as a training vessel for midshipmen, North Carolina was decommissioned in 1947. In 1961, the ship was docked in Wilmington and was dedicated as the State's memorial to its World War II veterans.

Biltmore Estate - Asheville
More than a century ago, George Vanderbilt created a larger-than-life country retreat in North Carolina's Blue Ridge Mountains near Asheville. Its centerpiece--Biltmore House--provided 250 rooms of hospitality to family and friends. Today, Biltmore Estate continues to offer a gracious escape from everyday life and stands as America's largest home.

Kitty Hawk and Kill Devil Hill - Kitty Hawk
When Orville Wright stepped ashore in Kitty Hawk Village in the fall of 1900, he probably already knew that he and his brother were destined to make history as discoverers of flight. After all, they had chosen this remote fishing village on the Outer Banks partly for privacy from prying eyes. Three years later, they would indeed break the bonds of earth for the first time in their heavier than air flying machine. From that moment forward, Kitty Hawk would forever be associated with the Wright Brothers as the birthplace of aviation -although the actual flight took place four miles south from the base of Kill Devil Hill.

Tryon Palace - New Bern
Tryon Palace, in New Bern, was originally built between 1767 and 1770, by Royal Governor William Tryon. The Palace was occupied by Governor Tryon, his wife Margaret Wake Tryon, and their daughter Margaret, for only a little over a year. Tryon left New Bern in June 1771 and moved to the royal colony of New York, where he had been appointed governor. Josiah Martin, the second royal governor to live in the Palace, fled in May of 1775 at the outbreak of the American Revolution. The newly formed state government later auctioned off his furnishings. After the Revolution, the Palace was used by four state governors. On the evening of April 21, 1791 the Palace was the scene of a dinner and dancing assembly held in honor of President George Washington, who was staying in New Bern while on his Southern tour.

Cape Hatteras Lighthouse - Buxton
For thousands of years barrier islands that stretch the length of the North Carolina coast have survived the onslaught of wind and sea. Today their long stretches of beach, sand dunes, marshes, and woodlands are set aside as Cape Hatteras National Seashore. The Seashore includes the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, built in 1870.