North Carolina - History and Heritage

Early History
For thousands of years, Indians, many from the Iroquoian, Siouan, and Algonquian language families, called the mountains of North Carolina home. Experience the world of the Cherokee Indian at the interactive Museum of the Cherokee Indian, or visit Town Creek Indian Mound to walk among ancient spiritual mounds built one thousand years ago in Mt. Gilead.

Some 500 years later, a group of 120 English men and women attempted to create the first English settlement in the New World on Roanoke Island. They had some success when one of the colonists gave birth to Virginia Dare, the first English child born in America. However, supplies were scarce, and they soon sent Governor John White back to England for aid. His return was not fast enough. When he finally made the voyage back across the ocean, his fellow colonists had disappeared. Follow this mysterious event at the country’s longest running outdoor drama production, "The Lost Colony," at Roanoke Island’s Waterside Theatre located in the Fort Raleigh National Historic Site.

Blackbeard the Pirate
During the Golden Age of Piracy from 1689 to 1718, pirates invaded the shores of North Carolina, especially the shallow inlets of the Outer Banks. But no one was as ruthless as Blackbeard the Pirate. Wearing a long red coat, swords and pistols, he is said to have lit his long black beard, which he laced with gunpowder, on fire to scare his opponents during battle. He traveled the Caribbean and up the Atlantic coast stealing goods and marooning other pirates as he went, until in 1718, the Royal Army met him in North Carolina’s Ocracoke Inlet for his final battle. Visit the North Carolina Maritime Museum in Beaufort to learn more about the pirate and see artifacts from his famous ship Queen Anne’s Revenge.

University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill)
In 1793, a cornerstone was laid for a monumental building, the groundwork for the first state university in the country. Old East, a two-story brick building, opened its doors to its first college student in 1795, making the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill a pioneer in higher education. Visit Old East and Playmakers Theatre, both National Historic Landmarks, and stroll through the manicured campus of this top-rated school.

Civil War Trail
Learn about North Carolina’s extensive role in the Civil War by visiting its coastal forts and cavalry operation in the western mountains. Take in the exhibits at Fort Fisher on the Cape Fear River, a critical Confederate supply line during the war. Walk the heritage trail on Roanoke Island, a Union-occupied area that became a government-sanctioned colony for former slaves in 1863.

(Kitty Hawk)
In 1903, after four years of experimentation, Wilbur and Orville Wright achieved the first successful flight. Check out a full-scale model of their gliders at the Wright Brothers National Memorial in Kitty Hawk, climb Big Kill Devil Hill to see where the brothers conducted experiments and stand at the exact spot where they took to the air in their Wright Flyer.

Civil Rights
On February 1, 1960, four college students entered a Woolworth store in Greensboro. They sat down at the whites-only lunch counter and refused to get up. News of this courageous move by the four young black men in a segregated South soon spread, and the next day more than 30 students joined in solidarity and again sat at the Woolworth whites-only lunch counter. The sit-ins, which occurred for several more days, catapulted the Civil Rights Movement in the South. Visit the soon-to-open International Civil Rights Center and Museum, which is housed in the original Woolworth building in Greensboro.

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