Twentieth-Century North Carolina History Timeline

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20th Century North Carolina Timeline
Twentieth-Century North Carolina History Timeline

North Carolina History Timeline, 1900 North Carolina Census Data 1900s, Historical Census Records Data Facts for North Carolina 1900s, 1900 NC State Census Record Historical Data Facts Timeline

20th Century North Carolina Timeline
Twentieth-Century North Carolina History Timeline

1900-1920

1900 North Carolina Census Data
Total 1,893,810
White 1,263,603
Black 624,469
Indians 5,687
Chinese 51
Other races not applicable

The state has 217 textile mills and 101 tobacco factories in operation.

The average wage for a family of five, with the father and four children ages 14 to 21 working in a prosperous textile mill, is $17 to $21 per week, or no more than $1,000 per year.

The North Carolina Literary and Historical Association is founded to foster growth in these fields, as well as to “engender an intelligent, healthy state pride.”

February 21: An amendment to the North Carolina Constitution is adopted that institutes a literacy test for voting. The amendment includes a grandfather clause that allows illiterate whites to vote but effectively disfranchises the state’s African American citizens.

November: Democrats regain control of the governorship and the legislature through a virulent white supremacy campaign.

1900–1902
Reginald Fessenden conducts successful radio experiments, during which he transmits messages from Roanoke Island to Cape Hatteras and Cape Henry, Va.

1901
Textile mill leaders meet in Charlotte to discuss self-regulation. More than 100 manufacturers agree to maintain a 66-hour work week and not to employ children under age 12 during the school year (with exceptions for children of widows and the disabled). The leaders pledge cooperation with state officials and call for legislative restraint in dealing with labor-management issues. Unfortunately, many mills fail to abide by the agreement.

Ransom Olds produces 1,500 Oldsmobiles, the first mass-produced automobiles in the United States.

September: President William McKinley is assassinated in Buffalo, N.Y.

1902
The Hall of History is founded by Colonel Fred Olds in Raleigh. It will evolve into the North Carolina Museum of History.

The North Carolina Federation of Women’s Clubs is organized.

Charlotte Hawkins Brown opens Palmer Memorial Institute in Sedalia.

The state’s first automobile registration takes place in Charlotte.

The North Carolina Good Roads Association is founded to promote a highway commission to maintain roads in the state.

1903
December 17: Orville Wright flies the first power-driven airplane at Kill Devil Hills. He stays aloft for 12 seconds on the first trip.

The North Carolina Historical Commission (now the Division of Archives and History) is established.

North Carolina passes its first child labor laws.

Booker T. Washington addresses the North Carolina Industrial Association’s annual fair. He advises African Americans to content themselves as an agrarian people, to eschew migration, and to seek the type of education that will promote community building.

The General Assembly charters Appalachian Training School (now Appalachian State University) in Boone.

1904
Southern Power Company (now Duke Power Company) is formed.

The Bijou Theater in Wilmington opens in a tent. Two years later a building is erected, making it the first permanent movie theater in the state. The Bijou will operate until 1956, when it will be possibly the oldest continuously operated theater in the country.

The General Assembly charters Cullowhee Normal and Industrial School (now Western Carolina University) in Cullowhee.

1905
North Carolina author Thomas Dixon Jr. publishes his book The Clansman. The book serves as the basis for D. W. Griffith’s controversial silent film The Birth of a Nation (1915).

1907
The General Assembly enacts a compulsory school law.

R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company of Winston-Salem introduces the Camel brand of cigarettes.

James W. Cannon, taking advantage of cheap farmland along the Southern Railway, establishes the textile mill village of Kannapolis in Cabarrus County.

The General Assembly charters East Carolina Teacher Training School (now East Carolina University).

Stonewall Jackson Training School in Concord is established as a state reform school for boys.

1907–1908
The first cotton and corn demonstration supervised by a county agent of the North Carolina Agricultural Extension Service takes place on a farm in Iredell County.

1908
The state’s first public sanatorium for treating tuberculosis opens in Hoke County.

Farmers organize the North Carolina Farmer’s Union as a division of the national Farmer’s Union. North Carolina farmers made up one-third of the organization’s national membership.

The second warship named USS North Carolina is commissioned. It is an armored cruiser that will see action in World War I.

May: Voters pass a statewide referendum prohibiting the manufacture and sale of alcoholic beverages.

October 1: Henry Ford introduces the Model T car. It costs $850.

1909
The first 4-H club in North Carolina is organized in Ahoskie as the Corn Club.

May 30: The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is founded in New York.

1910 North Carolina Census Data
Total 2,206,287
White 1,500,511
Black 697,843
Indians 7,851
Chinese 80
Japanese 2
Other races not applicable

The State of North Carolina takes authority for capital punishment away from individual counties. The electric chair replaces hanging as the form of execution.

The National Religious Training School and Chautauqua (now North Carolina Central University) opens in Durham. In 1923 it will become the state-supported Durham State Training School for African American teachers. Two years later the General Assembly will make the school the first state-supported liberal arts college for blacks in the United States, named the North Carolina College for Negroes.

1911
The Sherman Antitrust Act forces the American Tobacco Company to split into four companies: American Tobacco, Liggett and Myers, Lorillard, and R. J. Reynolds.

Booker T. Washington calls Durham a “city of Negro enterprises.” By 1915 the city has 110 African American–owned businesses, including the Mechanics and Farmers Bank and the North Carolina Mutual Insurance Company.

Home economist Jane McKimmon initiates North Carolina’s home demonstration program.

The Pentecostal Holiness Church forms in Falcon, Cumberland County, by the consolidation of the Fire-Baptized Holiness Association and the Holiness Church.

The Greensboro city council and other southern cities pass ordinances requiring separate white and black residential areas.

1912
Furnifold M. Simmons becomes the last United States senator from North Carolina elected by the General Assembly before the law changes to provide for senatorial election by popular vote.

Robeson County establishes the first rural health department in the United States.

1913
Mercy Hospital, one of the first African American hospitals in the South, opens in Wilson.

North Carolinian Georgia “Tiny” Thompson becomes the first woman to parachute from an airplane.

1914
August: World War I begins in Europe. The United States declares neutrality.

August 15: The Panama Canal opens.

1915
Mount Mitchell becomes North Carolina’s first state park.

The North Carolina Highway Commission is established to build and maintain roads.

Soybeans are grown for the first time in the state near Elizabeth City. North Carolina is the first state to plant soybeans as a commercial commodity. Commercial processing of the crop begins at a plant in Elizabeth City.

May 7: The British steamer Lusitania, carrying munitions for Great Britain, is sunk by a German submarine, and 1,200 people drown, including 128 Americans.

1916
North Carolina National Guard units join the United States Army in action along the American-Mexican border against the Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa.

March 16: A 57-foot right whale is killed in the shallows of Cape Lookout—reportedly the last one killed by whalers on the North Carolina coast. The yield of 38 barrels of oil is apparently the last such oil procured by active shore-based whaling in the state.

July: As a result of 41 hours of continuous rainfall, several counties in western North Carolina experience devastating floods. The floods cause fatalities and massive property destruction, including extensive damage to railway lines.

1917
April 6: The United States enters World War I by declaring war on Germany.

September 5: The Pamlico County school system puts the state’s first motorized school bus into operation.

1917–1918
Three military training camps are established in the state: Camp Bragg as a field artillery training center near Fayetteville, Camp Greene as an infantry training center in Charlotte, and Camp Polk as a tank training center in Raleigh. The latter two close at the end of the war, but Camp Bragg (renamed Fort Bragg) remains open and will develop into a major military base.

The United States armed forces purchase the entire production of Bull Durham roll-your-own smoking tobacco to supply troops during the war. Two 30-car trains per month transport the tobacco through the state. Each boxcar bears a large banner with a patriotic slogan such as “When our boys light up, the Huns will light out,” “The smoke that follows the flag is always good old Bull,” and “Smoking out the Kaiser!”

1918
Henry B. Delany becomes the first African American Episcopal bishop in North Carolina.

The first dam is built on the Catawba River to provide hydroelectric power.

The North Carolina Society of Engineers organizes in Durham.

May: Congress passes the Sedition Act, making it a crime to write or say anything against the war. It is the harshest legislation restricting freedom of speech ever enacted in the United States.

August 16: The German submarine U-117 sinks the British tanker Mirlo off Cape Hatteras. Coast Guardsman Captain John A. Midgett, keeper of the Chicamacomico Lifesaving Station, commands a rescue effort that saves all but 10 of the 52-member crew. In 1921, Midgett and other lifesavers receive Gold Lifesaving Medals from the British government.

September–November: An influenza epidemic overtakes the state. More than 13,000 North Carolinians die, including Edward Kidder Graham, president of the University of North Carolina.

September 29: North Carolina troops in the army’s 30th Division take part in a decisive breakthrough of German lines in France.

November 11: An armistice between Germany and the Allies is signed, ending World War I.

1919
November 19: The United States Senate defeats the United States’s entry into the League of Nations.

1920 North Carolina Census Data
Total 2,559,123
White 1,783,779
Black 763,407
Indians 11,824
Chinese 88
Japanese 24
Other races 1

North Carolina is the second-most-industrialized state in the South, with an output of a billion dollars per year. The state’s top industrial goods are textiles, tobacco products, and furniture.

Martin Goodman of Winston-Salem invents Goody’s Headache Powders.

Lillian Exum Clement becomes the first woman elected to the North Carolina General Assembly. She is nominated by Buncombe County Democrats before passage of the 19th Amendment gives her the right to vote.

Katherine Everett becomes the first woman lawyer to argue a case before the North Carolina Supreme Court.

January 29: The 18th Amendment to the United States Constitution, enacting national prohibition of alcoholic beverages, takes effect.

August 11: The North Carolina House of Representatives sends a telegram to the General Assembly of Tennessee, where ratification of the 19th Amendment is simultaneously being debated. The telegram, signed by a majority of the members, assures Tennessee legislators that North Carolina will not ratify the “Susan B. Anthony amendment” and pleads that they defeat it as well.

August 26: After Tennessee becomes the final state in the two-thirds majority needed for ratification, the 19th Amendment takes effect, giving women the right to vote.

November: Cameron Morrison is elected governor, largely on a campaign to improve state highways and education.

1921-1940

1921
The Southern Furniture Exposition Center opens in High Point. The Piedmont region of North Carolina is recognized nationally as a leader in furniture manufacturing.

In large part because of extensive lobbying undertaken by Harriet M. Berry, the General Assembly passes a law aimed at improving North Carolina’s roads. The state begins construction of a highway system that will connect each county seat with its neighboring county seats via macadam, or blacktop, roads.

1922
Actress Ava Gardner is born in Smithfield.

January 28: The University of North Carolina Press begins operation in Chapel Hill. It is the first university press in the South.

1923
United States military officials observe a demonstration, commanded by General Billy Mitchell, off the shore of Cape Hatteras in which ships are sunk by airplane attacks.

North Carolina overtakes Massachusetts as the nation’s leading textile-producing state in the value of its products.

North Carolina native Annie Elizabeth (Bessie) Delany becomes the second African American woman to practice dentistry in New York City.

1924
Trinity College in Durham is endowed by tobacco and hydroelectric-power magnate James B. Duke and renamed Duke University.

Bob Melton opens the state’s first sit-down barbecue restaurant in Rocky Mount. Melton is credited with firmly establishing so-called eastern-style barbecue.

1925
Centered in High Point, the state’s furniture industry ranks first in the nation in the production of wooden furniture and fifth in all furniture production.

Cherokee lands are placed in trust status with the federal government.

Olive D. Campbell and Marguerite Butler establish the John C. Campbell Folk School at Brasstown in Clay County. The school specializes in teaching the traditional folk arts of North Carolina.

1927
The first talking motion picture, The Jazz Singer, is released.

The North Carolina State Art Society is incorporated for the purpose of beginning a state art collection. In 1929 the society opens a gallery (the forerunner of the North Carolina Museum of Art) in Raleigh.

Buncombe County Junior College (now the University of North Carolina at Asheville) is established.

May: American Charles Lindbergh becomes the first person to fly an airplane alone and nonstop across the Atlantic Ocean.

1928
Annie Wealthy Holland of Gates County forms the North Carolina Congress of Colored Parents and Teachers, the first such organization for African Americans in the state.

May 1: The first airplane to fly through North Carolina carrying mail lands at Lindley Field in Greensboro.

November: The presidential candidacy of Al Smith, who is a northerner and a Catholic, splits the Democratic Party in North Carolina, and for the first time since 1872, a Republican (Herbert Hoover) wins the state’s electoral votes.

1929
Union agitation and a strike at Loray Mill in Gastonia lead to the deaths of the Gastonia police chief and of labor leader Ella May Wiggins.

Asheville native Thomas Wolfe publishes his first novel, Look Homeward, Angel.

One-tenth of the state’s industrial labor force is employed by three tobacco companies.

David Marshall “Carbine” Williams is released from the state prison after receiving an early pardon for the shooting death of a sheriff’s deputy during a raid on Williams’s still. In prison Williams has shown great aptitude for machinery, and firearms in particular. He invents the short-stroke piston system for the M1 carbine, which revolutionizes the weapon. During his lifetime, Williams receives more than five dozen patents for improvements to firearms.

October 29: The Great Depression begins with a Wall Street stock market crash.

1930 North Carolina Census Data
Total 3,170,276
White 2,234,958
Black 918,647
Indians 16,579
Chinese 68
Japanese 17
Other races 7

The Great Depression grows worse as waves of bank closings wipe out millions of dollars in private savings.

North Carolina leads the nation in producing cotton goods and leads the South in producing knit goods.

Biltmore House, a private residence built by George W. Vanderbilt near Asheville during the 1890s, opens to the public as a museum.

1931
The General Assembly passes an act consolidating the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, North Carolina State College in Raleigh, and the Woman’s College in Greensboro into one system of higher education.

The General Assembly votes for the state to take over from the counties maintenance of all roads. Governor O. Max Gardner supports this plan as beneficial for the individual counties during the Depression.

April 1: The first regularly scheduled airline service between New York and Miami, which includes a stopover in Raleigh, is established.

1932
The North Carolina Symphony is established.

Cotton mill workers in High Point, Rockingham, and other towns strike. The following year, employees at more than 100 additional mills go on strike.

1933
Black Mountain College is founded in Buncombe County as a communal grouping of professors and students in a natural setting with complete intellectual freedom. It has no fixed regulations, no required courses, and no frequent examinations. The college attracts famous people from the art world. Financial problems will cause the college to close in 1957.

March: Franklin D. Roosevelt becomes president of the United States and begins instituting his New Deal economic programs.

December 5: The 21st Amendment to the United States Constitution ends national prohibition of alcohol.

Camp John Rock, one of the nation’s first Civilian Conservation Corps camps, opens in Transylvania County. It operates through 1936.

1934
Lake Mattamuskeet, the state’s largest natural lake, becomes a United States Wildlife Refuge.

1935
Statewide prohibition of alcohol ends.

Construction of the Blue Ridge Parkway begins.

The North Carolina Rural Electrification Authority is established.

The General Assembly passes an act to provide for the preservation of Indian antiquities in North Carolina. Citizens are “urged” to comply. No criminal penalties for violators are set.

1936
The Intracoastal Waterway is completed.

The Mint Museum of Art opens in Charlotte at the former United States Mint, which began operation in 1837.

1937
The Brown Creek Soil Conservation District, the first such area in the United States, is established in Anson County.

July 4: The opening performance of The Lost Colony takes place on Roanoke Island. The play is the nation’s first and longest-running outdoor drama.

1938
African American students in Greensboro initiate a theater boycott that spreads to other cities.

1939
The state provides free textbooks for public school elementary grades and establishes a rental plan for high schools.

North Carolina produces more wooden household furnishings than any other state in the nation.

A law school for African American students is established at North Carolina Central College.

September: World War II begins when France and Great Britain declare war on Germany following its invasion of Poland. The United States declares neutrality.

1940 North Carolina Census Data
Total 3,571,623
White 2,567,635
Black 981,298
Indians 22,546
Chinese 83
Japanese 21
Other races 40

The Wilmington Shipyard is completed. During the war, workers will build 243 Liberty and Victory Ships there.

The Indian Normal School in Robeson County (now the University of North Carolina at Pembroke) grants its first college degree.

A leading advocate of developing an airborne American military force, North Carolina native William C. Lee is given the responsibility of developing a test platoon of paratroopers. Lee will later become a major general and receive the title “father of the Airborne.”

President Franklin D. Roosevelt moves the United States closer to war with Germany and Japan by providing ships, arms, and supplies to Great Britain and by cutting oil supplies to Japan. Over 80 percent of the American public prefers to remain neutral in the war.

June 13: The battleship USS North Carolina (the third navy ship of that name) is commissioned. It serves in the Pacific from 1942 to 1945 and is decommissioned in 1947.

September 2: The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is dedicated.

1941-1960

1941
Seymour Johnson Air Base in Goldsboro and Cherry Point Marine Air Station are begun.

W. J. Cash’s classic work of social criticism and history, The Mind of the South, is published. It centers on the people of the backcountry South with which Cash is most familiar. He has lived most of his life in North and South Carolina. He is a graduate of Wake Forest College and has worked for both the Charlotte News and the Charlotte Observer.

June–July: President Franklin Roosevelt freezes German, Italian, and Japanese assets in the United States and orders the United States Navy to fire on German warships.

December 7: Japanese forces attack the American naval base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. The United States declares war on Japan the next day, entering World War II. Germany and Italy declare war on the United States. More than 362,000 North Carolinians serve in the armed forces during the war. More than 7,000 lose their lives, with 4,000 of them being killed in action.

1941–1942
German submarines sink more than 100 ships in the area of Diamond Shoals off the coast of Dare County during the “Battle of Torpedo Junction.”

1942
Construction on Camp Lejeune, near Jacksonville, begins.

Greensboro native Edward R. Murrow gains fame as a radio correspondent covering the war in Europe.

East Carolina Indian School is established in Sampson County to serve Native Americans in seven surrounding counties. The school will close in 1965.

A committee headed by Charles S. Johnson of Fisk University issues a document that becomes known as the Durham Manifesto. It acknowledges that World War II has generated increased racial tensions. The statement demands complete voting rights for African Americans and an end to white primaries, evasions of the law, and intimidation. It insists on equal access to all jobs.

January 1: For the only time, the Rose Bowl is played away from Pasadena. Because of fear of a Japanese attack in California, Duke University hosts the game in Durham. The Duke Blue Devils lose to Oregon State 20-16.

May: A German submarine torpedoes the British patrol boat HMS Bedfordshire off the Outer Banks. The bodies of four sailors from the Bedfordshire wash ashore on Ocracoke Island. The sailors are buried on the property of Alice Williams, with services arranged by the Coast Guard. In 1976 the cemetery will be officially leased to the British government in perpetuity for one dollar.

1943–1946
The Greensboro Overseas Replacement Depot trains and processes more than 330,000 servicemen on their way to overseas deployment.

1944
Because of food rationing due to the war, North Carolinians become increasingly self-sufficient. No fewer than 28 million quarts of food are canned, 30 million pounds of meat are cured, and 8 million pounds of fruit and vegetables are dried for home consumption.

June 6: Allied forces, including American troops, land on the French coast of Normandy, beginning the invasion of Europe against Nazi Germany.

1945
Communist forces of the Soviet Union under Joseph Stalin take over eastern Europe.

May 7: Nazi Germany surrenders, ending the war in Europe.

July 16: The first atomic bomb is exploded near Alamogordo, N. Mex., ushering in the atomic age.

August 6: The United States drops an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima, followed by a second bomb on Nagasaki three days later. The Japanese surrender on August 14.

1946
The Charlotte Center of the University of North Carolina is established. In 1949 the center becomes Charlotte College. It is renamed the University of North Carolina at Charlotte in 1965.

1947
North Carolina state government inaugurates the Good Health Program.

Kenneth R. Williams becomes the first African American candidate in the 20th-century South to defeat a white opponent in a municipal election. Williams wins a seat on the Winston-Salem Board of Aldermen.

The first Indian mayor of the town of Pembroke is elected. Previously the governor appointed the mayors, all of whom were non-Indian.

Elreta Alexander becomes the first African American woman licensed as a lawyer in North Carolina.

Wilmington College (now the University of North Carolina at Wilmington) is founded.

April: The Congress of Racial Equality tests a Supreme Court decision against segregation in interstate bus travel by sending eight African American men to ride on Greyhound and Trailways buses. Riders are arrested in Durham, Asheville, and Chapel Hill. This “Journey of Reconciliation” becomes the model for the “Freedom Ride” of 1961.

1948
The state’s first commercial television station, WBTV, opens in Charlotte. WFMY in Greensboro also opens.

Communist forces of the Soviet Union blockade Berlin in Germany. The United States airlifts supplies into the city until the stranglehold is broken one year later.

February: Thomas H. Davis establishes Piedmont Aviation, Inc. (later Piedmont Airlines) in Winston-Salem. It becomes one of the most successful regional airlines in the nation.

1949
Susie Sharp becomes North Carolina’s first female superior court judge.

April: The United States, Canada, and ten western European countries form the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to resist the threatened Communist takeover of Europe.

Communist forces under Mao Tse-tung take over China after a civil war and the deaths of more than 65 million people.

Texas political scientist V. O. Key Jr. establishes the mid-twentieth-century image of North Carolina for both natives and outsiders in his book Southern Politics in State and Nation. He describes the state as “energetic and ambitious. . . . The citizens are determined and confident; they are on the move. The mood is at odds with much of the rest of the South. . . . Many see in North Carolina a closer approximation to national norms, or national expectations of performance. . . . It enjoys a reputation for progressive outlook and action in many phases of life, especially industrial development, education, and race relations.”

March: Governor W. Kerr Scott shocks many people when he appoints Frank Porter Graham to the Senate seat left vacant by the death of J. Melville Broughton. Graham is president of the University of North Carolina and one of the South’s best-known liberals.

1950 North Carolina Census Data
Total 4,061,929
White 2,983,121
Black 1,047,353
Indians 3,742
Chinese 345
Japanese 98
Other races 27,270

The Cherokee Historical Association receives funding, and the first performance of the outdoor drama Unto These Hills takes place.

June 25: Communist North Korean forces invade South Korea, starting a three-year war with United Nations troops led by the United States. The Korean War results in the deaths of nearly 1,000 North Carolinians. More than 33,000 Americans are killed in service.

1951
A court order requires the University of North Carolina to admit African American students to its graduate and professional schools.

1952–1959
Tryon Palace, North Carolina’s colonial governor’s residence in New Bern, is reconstructed and opened to the public.

1953
The State of North Carolina recognizes the Lumbee (formerly called the Cherokee of Robeson County).

1954
In Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, the United States Supreme Court orders that public schools be integrated “with all deliberate speed.” Most North Carolina schools are not fully desegregrated until the late 1960s.

North Carolina ranks as the South’s industrial leader and as the twelfth-most-industrialized state in the nation.

October: Hurricane Hazel hits North Carolina, bringing terrible devastation to the eastern part of the state. Hazel causes 19 deaths and $136 million in property damage.

1955
The University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill admits its first African American freshmen: Leroy Frasier, John Lewis Brandon, and Ralph Frasier, all of Durham.

In response to the Supreme Court’s ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, the General Assembly passes a resolution stating that “The mixing of the races in the public schools within the state cannot be accomplished and if attempted would alienate public support to such an extent that they could not be operated successfully.”

1956
The General Assembly passes an amendment to the state constitution known as the Pearsall Plan to allow the state legally to oppose immediate desegregation of the public schools. Individual school systems are given the right to suspend operation of their schools by vote, and the legislature is authorized to provide payment for students who attend private schools because their parents do not want them to attend integrated schools. The Pearsall Plan gives the state time to begin a slow process of integration.

The North Carolina Museum of Art opens to the public in Raleigh.

Wake Forest College moves to a new campus in Winston-Salem, where it will become Wake Forest University in 1967. Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary takes over the school’s old campus in Wake Forest.

Congress passes the “Lumbee Bill,” which recognizes the Lumbee as an Indian tribe but denies them services from the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

1957
The Research Triangle Park opens in Durham County.

Wilmington native Charles B. Kuralt begins working for CBS.

Small numbers of African American students enroll in previously all-white public schools in Greensboro, Charlotte, and Winston-Salem, beginning a period of token integration in North Carolina.

Under Governor Luther H. Hodges, the state’s biennial budget tops $1 billion for the first time.

Seven black activists led by the Reverend Douglas E. Moore seek service in the white section of an ice-cream parlor in Durham. They are arrested and convicted of trespassing, but their sit-in presages a decade of conflict and social revolution.

October 4: The Soviet Union launches Sputnik, the first rocket-powered satellite to orbit Earth.

1958
The United States launches Explorer I, the first American satellite. Congress creates the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) for space exploration.

January 18: A large group of Lumbee, angered by racist agitation and threats of cross burnings, descend on a Ku Klux Klan rally near Maxton. Their war whoops and gunfire scatter the Klan members, two of whom are later indicted on charges of incitement to riot.

February: The Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. visits North Carolina. He delivers speeches in Raleigh and Greensboro.

1959
Communist forces under Fidel Castro take over the island of Cuba, 90 miles south of Florida.

North Carolina becomes the first state to require polio vaccinations.

Two Durham African American families successfully sue to have their daughters admitted to the city’s predominantly white high school.

Panty hose, called Panti-Legs and made at Glen Raven Mills near Burlington, go on sale for the first time.

1960 North Carolina Census Data
Total 4,556,155
White 3,399,285
Black 1,116,021
Indians 38,129
Chinese 404
Japanese 1,265
Filipino 343
Other races 708

The Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee, an organization promoting peaceful means of protesting racial inequality, forms in Raleigh.

Governor Terry Sanford’s quality-education program (named Go Forward) starts.

The Charlotte Motor Speedway is built.

February 1: The nation’s first lunch counter sit-in begins in Greensboro when four students from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College (now North Carolina A&T State University) are refused service at a Woolworth’s counter. The mode of protest used by Ezell Blair, Franklin McCain, David Richmond, and Joseph McNeil quickly spreads across the South.

1961-1980

1961
The battleship USS North Carolina is berthed at Wilmington and opens as a museum and war memorial.

January 24: A B-52 bomber from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base crashes near Goldsboro while carrying two nuclear warheads. Department of Defense reports released in 1980 will indicate that one of the weapons snagged in a tree and was only a final safety catch away from detonation. The bomb was 1,800 times as powerful as the one dropped on Hiroshima.

April 12: Yury Gagarin of the Soviet Union becomes the first person to enter outer space when he completes one orbit of Earth. On May 5 of this year, Alan Shepard becomes the first American in space, and on February 20, 1962, John Glenn becomes the first American to orbit Earth.

1962
Susie Sharp becomes first woman to serve on the North Carolina Supreme Court.

National Geographic labels North Carolina the “Dixie Dynamo” for the state’s progressive social and economic atmosphere.

October: The United States and the Soviet Union near global nuclear war after atomic warheads are placed in Communist Cuba. The Soviet Union finally agrees to remove the missiles, ending the immediate threat.

1963
The General Assembly passes a controversial bill in the last few hours of its session. The so-called Speaker Ban Law, intended primarily to prohibit Communist speakers, sets limits on who can receive permission to speak on state-supported university campuses.

The North Carolina community college system is established.

February 6: The General Assembly convenes for the first session in its new Legislative Building.

November 22: President John F. Kennedy is assassinated in Dallas, Tex.

1964
Congress passes a Civil Rights Act giving African Americans equal access to public accommodations.

The homes of Charlotte civil rights activists Kelly Alexander, Fred Alexander, Julius Chambers, and Reginald Hawkins are bombed.

The Haliwa receive state recognition as an Indian tribe.

Samuel S. Mitchell becomes the first African American judge in North Carolina.

August: Following reports that Communist North Vietnamese forces have attacked United States warships in the Gulf of Tonkin, President Lyndon Johnson asks Congress to send American troops to South Vietnam. In the succeeding 10 years of war, 1,500 North Carolinians are among the more than 53,000 Americans killed in service.

1965
Congress passes a Voting Rights Act prohibiting discrimination against African Americans and their right to vote.

The North Carolina School of the Arts opens as the first state-supported residential school for the performing arts in the United States.

1968
Congress passes a Civil Rights Act prohibiting discrimination against African Americans in the sale or rental of housing.

Greensboro attorney McNeil Smith argues against the Speaker Ban Law before a federal court, which declares the law unconstitutional.

Reginald A. Hawkins becomes the first African American candidate for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in North Carolina.

Margaret Taylor Harper runs for lieutenant governor. She is the first woman to run for statewide office in North Carolina.

Henry E. Frye is elected to the General Assembly. He is the first African American elected to the state house of representatives in the twentieth century.

Howard Lee is elected mayor of Chapel Hill. He is the first African American to serve as mayor of a predominantly white southern city.

Elreta Alexander becomes the first African American elected judge in North Carolina.

1969
July 20: American Neil Armstrong becomes the first man to set foot on the moon.

Durham resident Warren Wheeler founds Wheeler Airlines, the only African American–owned airline in the state. Wheeler Airlines is based at the Raleigh-Durham Airport.

Police and National Guardsmen fire on demonstrators at North Carolina A&T State University. One student is killed and five police officers are injured.

1970 North Carolina Census Data
Total 5,082,059
White 3,901,767
Black 1,126,478
Indians 44,406
Chinese 1,255
Japanese 2,104
Filipino 905
Other races 5,144

Kannapolis, the mill “village” owned primarily by Charles A. Cannon, is the nation’s largest unincorporated municipality.

1971
A federal court in Charlotte orders busing to enforce school integration. Public schools across the nation are forced to follow suit.

A grocery store in Wilmington is firebombed, sparking racial violence. The “Wilmington 10,” a group of mainly African American citizens, are convicted of arson and other charges. A federal court will overturn their convictions in 1980.

The third North Carolina state constitution is enacted.

The state recognizes the Coharie and Waccamaw-Siouan tribes.

The General Assembly establishes the North Carolina Commission of Indian Affairs.

The Lumbee Bank is established in Pembroke. It is the first Indian-owned and -operated bank in the United States.

June 30: The 26th Amendment to the United States Constitution grants 18-year-olds the right to vote.

October 30: The General Assembly merges all state-supported senior institutions of higher education into the University of North Carolina, resulting in a statewide multicampus system of 16 constituent institutions. The changes take effect on July 1, 1972.

1972
James E. Holshouser becomes the first Republican elected governor of North Carolina in the twentieth century.

Jesse Helms is elected to the United States Senate for the first time.

The Carolina Indian Voice, an Indian-owned newspaper, begins operation.

United States senator Sam Ervin of North Carolina is chosen as chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities. The committee investigates the Watergate break-in, in which associates of Republican president Richard Nixon burgled the Democratic National Committee headquarters.

1973
January 27: The United States signs a peace treaty in Paris, ending American military involvement in Vietnam.

The United States Supreme Court rules in Roe v. Wade that a woman has the legal right to have an abortion.

Henry Ward Oxendine, a Lumbee from Robeson County, becomes the first Indian elected to the General Assembly.

1974
The North Carolina Zoo opens to the public in Asheboro.

Susie Sharp becomes the first woman elected chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court, and the first popularly elected female chief justice in the nation.

August 9: Faced with impeachment, Richard Nixon resigns as president of the United States.

1975
The capture of Saigon by the Communist North Vietnamese army brings the Vietnam War to an end. Many Vietnamese flee their country and start a new life in the United States. Some settle in North Carolina.

1976
Tobacco and tourism each bring in $1 billion to the state’s economy. Recent industrial development in the state amounts to $1 billion as well.

The United States lands the Viking I and Viking II space probes on Mars.

1977
The North Carolina General Assembly refuses to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. The amendment fails national ratification.

Isabella Cannon is elected mayor of Raleigh. She is the first female mayor of a major North Carolina city.

1979
Iranian militants capture American diplomats in the embassy at Tehran and hold them hostage; a rescue attempt six months later fails. The Americans are not released until 1981, after 444 days of captivity.

Members of the Communist Party and the Ku Klux Klan clash in Greensboro during an anti-Klan rally. Gunfire is exchanged, and Klan members kill five Communist supporters. A year later a court clears the Klan members of all charges.

1980 North Carolina Census Data
Total 5,881,766
White 4,457,507
Black 1,318,857
American Indian 64,536
Eskimo 57
Aleutian 59
Japanese 3,186
Chinese 3,176
Filipino 2,542
Korean 3,518
Asian Indian 4,720
Vietnamese 2,391
Hawaiian 839
Guamanian 500
Samoan 241
Other races 19,574

After both the General Assembly and a popular vote approve a constitutional amendment allowing a governor to serve consecutive terms, James B. Hunt becomes the first North Carolina chief executive to succeed himself in office.

Wilmington native and journalist David Brinkley retires from NBC after 24 years.

The North Carolina Film Office is created to promote North Carolina as a site for the filmmaking industry.

The portion of North Carolina’s workforce employed in industry has increased to 33 percent from 29 percent in 1950. Agriculture, which employed one-fourth of the state’s population in 1950, now employs only 3.6 percent of the workforce. The number of family farms has decreased from 288,508 to 93,000 during the same period. Despite a reduction in the number of acres farmed—from 19,317,937 to 11,700,000—the average size of individual farms has increased from 67 to 126 acres as agriculture in the state has become more of a business and less of a family affair.

1981-2000

1981
The estimated total value of manufactured products in the state reaches $60 billion.

The General Assembly passes the Unmarked Human Burial and Human Skeletal Remains Protection Act and the Archaeological Resources Protection Act. Criminal penalties for violations are set, and the involvement of Indian communities in decisions concerning the treatment, analysis, and disposition of Native American remains is mandated.

March: President Ronald W. Reagan survives an assassination attempt in Washington, D.C., in which he is shot twice in the chest.

1982
A Fortune magazine survey of top executives ranks North Carolina second in the nation (behind Texas) as a location for companies wanting to build new plants.

1983
Henry Frye becomes the first African American to sit on the North Carolina Supreme Court.

October 25: Troops from North Carolina military bases assist in the expulsion of Communist forces from the Caribbean island of Grenada.

1984
July 4: Richard Petty wins his 200th NASCAR victory at the Daytona International Speedway in Florida, with President Ronald Reagan in attendance.

1985
January 21: The temperature on Mount Mitchell reaches minus 34 degrees Fahrenheit—the lowest temperature ever recorded in North Carolina.

1986
January 28: The space shuttle Challenger explodes shortly after liftoff, killing all seven people on board, including pilot Michael Smith, a native of Beaufort, and Ron Erwin McNair, a 1971 graduate of North Carolina A&T State University.

1987
March: Film legend George Randolph Scott dies and is buried in Charlotte, his family home. Scott starred in 96 motion pictures and was famous for his westerns, including his last film in 1962, Ride the High Country.

April: Charlotte is selected as the location for a National Basketball Association franchise. The Charlotte Hornets begin playing the next year.

1988
Gertrude B. Elion and George H. Hitchings win the Nobel Prize in medicine. Both formerly worked at the Research Triangle Park.

1990 North Carolina Census Data
Total 6,628,637
White 5,008,491
Black 1,456,323
American Indian, Eskimo, or Aleutian 80,155
Asian or Pacific Islander 52,166
Other races 31,502

1990–1991
The United States fights the Persian Gulf War. The North Carolina Army National Guard mobilizes 19 units and more than 2,000 personnel in response to the crisis.

1991
East Carolina University’s medical school pioneers modern telemedicine.

Dan Blue becomes the first African American to serve as speaker of the house in the General Assembly.

Troops from North Carolina military bases assist in the expulsion of Iraqi forces from Kuwait.

November: Eva Clayton becomes the first woman elected to Congress from North Carolina.

1992
January 1: The Soviet Union is officially declared dead after several years of economic collapse and the secession of its former republics, which reject Communism and establish independent nations.

November: James B. Hunt becomes the first North Carolina governor elected to a third four-year term. Four years later he will be elected to a fourth term in office.

1993
October 26: National Football League team owners vote unanimously to place a team in the Carolinas. The Carolina Panthers begin playing in 1995.

North Carolina natives Sadie and Bessie Delany, at ages 104 and 102, publish the book Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters’ First 100 Years. The sisters, daughters of Episcopal bishop Henry B. Delany, turn into celebrities, and their story becomes a successful Broadway play.

1994
North Carolina resident Martin Rodbell wins the Nobel Prize for discoveries about how proteins trigger basic body functions.

April: The North Carolina Museum of History opens its new facility to the public in Raleigh.

1996
North Carolina has approximately 9.3 million hogs, making it the second-largest pork producer in the nation. Most farms are in 20 eastern counties.

September: Hurricane Fran hits North Carolina, causing more than $5 billion in damage, primarily in the eastern part of the state.

1997
North Carolina gains its third major-league sports franchise when the Hartford Whalers (now the Carolina Hurricanes) of the National Hockey League relocate to the state.

December: President Bill Clinton is impeached in the United States House of Representatives, becoming the second president impeached by Congress (the first was Andrew Johnson, in 1868). The Senate votes not to remove Clinton from office.

1999
January 13: North Carolinian Michael Jordan retires from the National Basketball Association after 13 seasons, six NBA championships, 10 scoring titles, and five Most Valuable Player awards.

September: Hurricane Floyd causes widespread and devastating flooding in the eastern portion of North Carolina.

2000
April: The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences opens its new facility to the public in Raleigh.

2000 North Carolina Census Data
Total 8,049,313
White 5,804,656
Black 1,737,545
American Indian and Alaska Native 99,551
Asian 113,689
Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander 3,983
Hispanic or Latino 378,963
Other races 186,629

2002
November: Elizabeth Dole becomes the first woman to represent North Carolina in the United States Senate.

2004
North Carolina Senator John Edwards runs for vice president. He and running mate Senator John Kerry are narrowly defeated by incumbent President George Bush.

Source: North Carolina Museum of History

Recommended Reading: Encyclopedia of North Carolina (Hardcover: 1328 pages) (The University of North Carolina Press). Description: The first single-volume reference to the events, institutions, and cultural forces that have defined the state, the Encyclopedia of North Carolina is a landmark publication that will serve those who love and live in North Carolina for generations to come. Editor William S. Powell, whom the Raleigh News & Observer described as a "living repository of information on all things North Carolinian," spent fifteen years developing this volume. With contributions by more than 550 volunteer writers—including scholars, librarians, journalists, and many others—it is a true "people's encyclopedia" of North Carolina. Continued below...

The volume includes more than 2,000 entries, presented alphabetically, consisting of longer essays on major subjects, briefer entries, and short summaries and definitions. Most entries include suggestions for further reading. Centered on history and the humanities, topics covered include agriculture; arts and architecture; business and industry; the Civil War; culture and customs; education; geography; geology, mining, and archaeology; government, politics, and law; media; medicine, science, and technology; military history; natural environment; organizations, clubs, and foundations; people, languages, and immigration; places and historic preservation; precolonial and colonial history; recreation and tourism; religion; and transportation. An informative and engaging compendium, the Encyclopedia of North Carolina is abundantly illustrated with 400 photographs and maps. It is both a celebration and a gift—from the citizens of North Carolina, to the citizens of North Carolina. "Truly an exhaustive and exciting view of every aspect of the Old North State!”

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Recommended Reading: The Tar Heel State: A History of North Carolina (Hardcover). Description: The Tar Heel State: A History of North Carolina constitutes the most comprehensive and inclusive single-volume chronicle of the state’s storied past to date, culminating with an attentive look at recent events that have transformed North Carolina into a southern megastate. Integrating tales of famous pioneers, statesmen, soldiers, farmers, captains of industry, activists, and community leaders with more marginalized voices, including those of Native Americans, African Americans, and women, Milton Ready gives readers a view of North Carolina that encompasses perspectives and personalities from the coast, "tobacco road," the Piedmont, and the mountains in this sweeping history of the Tar Heel State. The first such volume in more than two decades, Ready’s work offers a distinctive view of the state’s history built from myriad stories and episodes. The Tar Heel State is enhanced by one hundred and ninety illustrations and five maps. Continued below...

Ready begins with a study of the state’s geography and then invites readers to revisit dramatic struggles of the American Revolution and Civil War, the early history of Cherokees, the impact of slavery as an institution, the rise of industrial mills, and the changes wrought by modern information-based technologies since 1970. Mixing spirited anecdotes and illustrative statistics, Ready describes the rich Native American culture found by John White in 1585, the chartered chaos of North Carolina’s proprietary settlement, and the chronic distrust of government that grew out of settlement patterns and the colony’s early political economy. He challenges the perception of relaxed intellectualism attributed to the "Rip van Winkle" state, the notion that slavery was a relatively benign institution in North Carolina, and the commonly accepted interpretation of Reconstruction in the state. Ready also discusses how the woman suffrage movement pushed North Carolina into a hesitant twentieth-century progressivism. In perhaps his most significant contribution to North Carolina’s historical record, Ready continues his narrative past the benchmark of World War II and into the twenty-first century. From the civil rights struggle to the building of research triangles, triads, and parks, Ready recounts the events that have fueled North Carolina’s accelerated development in recent years and the many challenges that have accompanied such rapid growth, especially those of population change and environmental degradation.

 

Recommended Reading: A People's History of the United States: 1492 to Present. Review: Consistently lauded for its lively, readable prose, this revised and updated edition of A People's History of the United States turns traditional textbook history on its head. Howard Zinn infuses the often-submerged voices of blacks, women, American Indians, war resisters, and poor laborers of all nationalities into this thorough narrative that spans American history from Christopher Columbus's arrival to an afterword on the Clinton presidency. Addressing his trademark reversals of perspective, Zinn--a teacher, historian, and social activist for more than 20 years—explains: "My point is not that we must, in telling history, accuse, judge, condemn Columbus in absentia. Continued below…

It is too late for that; it would be a useless scholarly exercise in morality. But the easy acceptance of atrocities as a deplorable but necessary price to pay for progress (Hiroshima and Vietnam, to save Western civilization; Kronstadt and Hungary, to save socialism; nuclear proliferation, to save us all)--that is still with us. One reason these atrocities are still with us is that we have learned to bury them in a mass of other facts, as radioactive wastes are buried in containers in the earth." If your last experience of American history was brought to you by junior high school textbooks--or even if you're a specialist--get ready for the other side of stories you may not even have heard. With its vivid descriptions of rarely noted events, A People's History of the United States is required reading for anyone who wants to take a fresh look at the rich, rocky history of America. "Thought-provoking, controversial, and never dull..."

 

Recommended Viewing: 500 Nations (372 minutes). Description: 500 Nations is an eight-part documentary (more than 6 hours and that's not including its interactive CD-ROM filled with extra features) that explores the history of the indigenous peoples of North and Central America, from pre-Colombian times through the period of European contact and colonization, to the end of the 19th century and the subjugation of the Plains Indians of North America. 500 Nations utilizes historical texts, eyewitness accounts, pictorial sources and computer graphic reconstructions to explore the magnificent civilizations which flourished prior to contact with Western civilization, and to tell the dramatic and tragic story of the Native American nations' desperate attempts to retain their way of life against overwhelming odds. Continued below...

Mention the word "Indian," and most will conjure up images inspired by myths and movies: teepees, headdresses, and war paint; Sitting Bull, Geronimo, Crazy Horse, and their battles (like Little Big Horn) with the U.S. Cavalry. Those stories of the so-called "horse nations" of the Great Plains are all here, but so is a great deal more. Using impressive computer imaging, photos, location film footage and breathtaking cinematography, interviews with present-day Indians, books and manuscripts, museum artifacts, and more, Leustig and his crew go back more than a millennium to present an fascinating account of Indians, including those (like the Maya and Aztecs in Mexico and the Anasazi in the Southwest) who were here long before white men ever reached these shores.
It was the arrival of Europeans like Columbus, Cortez, and DeSoto that marked the beginning of the end for the Indians. Considering the participation of host Kevin Costner, whose film Dances with Wolves was highly sympathetic to the Indians, it's no bulletin that 500 Nations also takes a compassionate view of the multitude of calamities--from alcohol and disease to the corruption of their culture and the depletion of their vast natural resources--visited on them by the white man in his quest for land and money, eventually leading to such horrific events as the Trail of Tears "forced march," the massacre at Wounded Knee, and other consequences of the effort to "relocate" Indians to the reservations where many of them still live. Along the way, we learn about the Indians' participation in such events as the American Revolution and the War of 1812, as well as popular legends like the first Thanksgiving (it really happened) and the rescue of Captain John Smith by Pocahontas (it probably didn't).

 

Recommended Viewing: The History Channel Presents The Presidents (A&E) (360 minutes). Review: THE PRESIDENTS is an unprecedented eight-part survey of the personal lives and legacies of the remarkable men who have presided over the Oval Office. From George Washington to George W. Bush, THE PRESIDENTS gathers together vivid snapshots of all 43 Commanders-in-Chief who have guided America throughout its history--their powerful personalities, weaknesses, and major achievements or historical insignificance. Based on the book To the Best of My Ability, edited by Pulitzer Prize-winner James McPherson, THE PRESIDENTS features rare and unseen photographs and footage, unexpected insight and trivia from journalists, scholars, and politicians such as Walter Cronkite, David Brinkley, Wesley Clark, Bob Dole, and former President Jimmy Carter. Continued below...

Viewed within the changing contexts of each administration, the Presidency has never seemed more compelling and human. Narrated by Edward Herrmann (The Aviator), this three-DVD (6 HOURS) set is a proud addition to the award-winning documentary tradition of THE HISTORY CHANNEL®. DVD Features: Feature-length Bonus Program "All The Presidents' Wives"; Timeline of U.S. Presidents; Interactive Menus; Scene Selection. (6 HOURS); Highly Recommended! Great for the home, family, and classroom…

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