The state has a wide range of elevations, from sea level on the coast to 6,684 feet at Mount Mitchell, the highest point in North America east of the Mississippi River. The climate of the coastal plains is strongly influenced by the Atlantic Ocean. Most of the state falls in the humid subtropical climate zone. More than 300 miles from the coast, the western, mountainous part of the state has a subtropical highland climate.
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 tidewater region, 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 1,000 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 Appalachian Mountain range. Among the subranges of the Appalachians located in the state are the Great Smoky Mountains, Blue Ridge Mountains, and 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.
North Carolina has 17 major river basins. The five basins west of the Blue Ridge Mountains flow to the Gulf of Mexico, while the remainder flow to the Atlantic Ocean. Of the 17 basins, 11 originate within the state of North Carolina, but only four are contained entirely within the state's border – the Cape Fear, the Neuse, the White Oak, and the Tar–Pamlico basin.
Elevation above sea level is most responsible for temperature change across the state, with the mountain area 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 experiences severe weather in both summer and winter, with summer bringing threat of hurricanes, tropical storms, heavy rain, and flooding. Destructive hurricanes that have hit North Carolina include Hurricane Fran, Hurricane Floyd, and Hurricane Hazel, the latter being the strongest storm ever to make landfall in the state, as a Category 4 in 1954. Hurricane Isabel ranks as the most destructive of the 21st century.
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.
In April 2011, the worst tornado outbreak in North Carolina's history occurred. Thirty confirmed tornadoes touched down, mainly in the Eastern Piedmont and Sandhills, killing at least 24 people.
Woodland-culture American Indians were in the area around 1000 BCE; starting around 750 CE, Mississippian-culture Indians created larger political units with stronger leadership and more stable, longer-term settlements. During this time, important buildings were constructed as pyramidal, flat-topped buildings. By 1550, many groups of American Indians lived in present-day North Carolina, including Chowanoke, Roanoke, Pamlico, Machapunga, Coree, Cape Fear Indians, Waxhaw, Waccamaw, and Catawba.
Juan Pardo explored the area in 1566–1567, establishing Fort San Juan in 1567 at the site of the Native American community of Joara, a Mississippian culture regional chiefdom in the western interior, near the present-day city of Morganton. The fort lasted only 18 months; the local inhabitants killed all but one of the 120 men Pardo had stationed at a total of six forts in the area. A later expedition by Philip Amadas and Arthur Barlowe followed in 1584, at the direction of Sir Walter Raleigh.
In June 1718, the pirate Blackbeard ran his flagship, the Queen Anne's Revenge, aground at Beaufort Inlet, North Carolina, in present-day Carteret County. After the grounding her crew and supplies were transferred to smaller ships. In November, after appealing to the governor of North Carolina, who promised safe-haven and a pardon, Blackbeard was killed in an ambush by troops from Virginia. In 1996 Intersal, Inc., a private firm, discovered the remains of a vessel likely to be the Queen Anne's Revenge, which was added to the US National Register of Historic Places.
North Carolina became one of the English Thirteen Colonies and with the territory of South Carolina was originally known as the Province of Carolina. The northern and southern parts of the original province separated in 1729. Originally settled by small farmers, sometimes having a few slaves, who were oriented toward subsistence agriculture, the colony lacked cities or towns. Pirates menaced the coastal settlements, but by 1718 the pirates had been captured and killed. Growth was strong in the middle of the 18th century, as the economy attracted Scots-Irish, Quaker, English and German immigrants. The colonists generally supported the American Revolution, as the number of Loyalists was smaller than in some other colonies.
During colonial times, Edenton served as the state capital beginning in 1722, and New Bern was selected as the capital in 1766. Construction of Tryon Palace, which served as the residence and offices of the provincial governor William Tryon, began in 1767 and was completed in 1771. In 1788 Raleigh was chosen as the site of the new capital, as its central location protected it from coastal attacks. Officially established in 1792 as both county seat and state capital, the city was named after Sir Walter Raleigh, sponsor of Roanoke, the "lost colony" on Roanoke Island.
North Carolina made the smallest per-capita contribution to the war of any state, as only 7,800 men joined the Continental Army under General George Washington; an additional 10,000 served in local militia units under such leaders as General Nathanael Greene. There was some military action, especially in 1780–81. Many Carolinian frontiersmen had moved west over the mountains, into the Washington District (later known as Tennessee), but in 1789, following the Revolution, the state was persuaded to relinquish its claim to the western lands. It ceded them to the national government so that the Northwest Territory could be organized and managed nationally.
After 1800, cotton and tobacco became important export crops. The eastern half of the state, especially the Tidewater region, developed a slave society based on a plantation system and slave labor. Many free people of color migrated to the frontier along with their European-American neighbors, where the social system was looser. By 1810, nearly 3 percent of the free population consisted of free people of color, who numbered slightly more than 10,000. The western areas were dominated by white families, especially Scots-Irish, who operated small subsistence farms. In the early national period, the state became a center of Jeffersonian and Jacksonian democracy, with a strong Whig presence, especially in the West. After Nat Turner's slave uprising in 1831, North Carolina and other southern states reduced the rights of free blacks. In 1835 the legislature withdrew their right to vote.
On May 20, 1861, North Carolina was the last of the Confederate states to declare secession from the Union, 13 days after the Tennessee legislature voted for secession. Some 125,000 North Carolinians served in the military; 20,000 were killed in battle, the most of any state in the Confederacy, and 21,000 died of disease. The state government was reluctant to support the demands of the national government in Richmond, and the state was the scene of only small battles.
With the defeat of the Confederacy in 1865, the Reconstruction Era began. The United States abolished slavery without compensation to slaveholders or reparations to freedmen. A Republican Party coalition of black freedmen, northern carpetbaggers and local scalawags controlled state government for three years. The white conservative Democrats regained control of the state legislature in 1870, in part by Ku Klux Klan violence and terrorism at the polls, to suppress black voting. Republicans were elected to the governorship until 1876, when the Red Shirts, a paramilitary organization that arose in 1874 and was allied with the Democratic Party, helped suppress black voting. More than 150 black Americans were murdered in electoral violence in 1876.
Democrats were elected to the legislature and governor's office, but the Populists attracted voters displeased with them. In 1896 a biracial, Populist-Republican Fusionist coalition gained the governor's office. The Democrats regained control of the legislature in 1896 and passed laws to impose Jim Crow and racial segregation of public facilities. Voters of North Carolina's 2nd congressional district elected a total of four African-American congressmen through these years of the late 19th century.
Political tensions ran so high that a small group of white Democrats in 1898 planned to take over the Wilmington government if their candidates were not elected. In the Wilmington Insurrection of 1898, more than 1,500 white men attacked the black newspaper and neighborhood, killed numerous men, and ran off the white Republican mayor and aldermen. They installed their own people and elected Alfred M. Waddell as mayor, in the only coup d'état in United States history.
In 1899 the state legislature passed a new constitution, with requirements for poll taxes and literacy tests for voter registration which disfranchised most black Americans in the state. Exclusion from voting had wide effects: it meant that black Americans could not serve on juries or in any local office. After a decade of white supremacy, many people forgot that North Carolina had ever had thriving middle-class black Americans. Black citizens had no political voice in the state until after the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965 were passed to enforce their constitutional rights. It was not until 1992 that another African American was elected as a US Representative from North Carolina.
As in the rest of the former Confederacy, North Carolina had become a one-party state, dominated by the Democratic Party. Impoverished by the Civil War, the state continued with an economy based on tobacco, cotton and agriculture. Towns and cities remained few in the east. A major industrial base emerged in the late 19th century in the western counties of the Piedmont, based on cotton mills established at the fall line. Railroads were built to connect the new industrializing cities. The state was the site of the first successful controlled, powered and sustained heavier-than-air flight, by the Wright brothers, near Kitty Hawk on December 17, 1903. In the first half of the 20th century, many African Americans left the state to go North for better opportunities, in the Great Migration. Their departure changed the demographic characteristics of many areas.
North Carolina was hard hit by the Great Depression, but the New Deal programs of Franklin D. Roosevelt for cotton and tobacco significantly helped the farmers. After World War II, the state's economy grew rapidly, highlighted by the growth of such cities as Charlotte, Raleigh, and Durham in the Piedmont. Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill form the Research Triangle, a major area of universities and advanced scientific and technical research. In the 1990s, Charlotte became a major regional and national banking center. Tourism has also been a boon for the North Carolina economy as people flock to the Outer Banks coastal area and the Appalachian Mountains anchored by Asheville.
By the 1970s, spurred in part by the increasingly leftward tilt of national Democrats, conservative whites began to vote for Republican national candidates and gradually for more Republicans locally. The Greensboro Sit-ins played a crucial role in the Civil Rights Movement to bring full equality to American blacks.
North Carolina was inhabited for thousands of years by succeeding cultures of prehistoric indigenous cultures. Before 200 AD, they were building earthwork mounds, which were used for ceremonial and religious purposes. Succeeding peoples, including those of the ancient Mississippian culture established by 1000 AD in the Piedmont, continued to build or add on to such mounds. In the 500–700 years preceding European contact, the Mississippian culture built large, complex cities and maintained far-flung regional trading networks. Its largest city was Cahokia, located in present-day Illinois near the Mississippi River.
Historically documented tribes in the North Carolina region include the Carolina Algonquian-speaking tribes of the coastal areas, such as the Chowanoke, Roanoke, Pamlico, Machapunga, Coree, and Cape Fear Indians, who were the first encountered by the English; the Iroquoian-speaking Meherrin, Cherokee, and Tuscarora of the interior; and Southeastern Siouan tribes, such as the Cheraw, Waxhaw, Saponi, Waccamaw, and Catawba.
Spanish explorers traveling inland in the 16th century met Mississippian culture people at Joara, a regional chiefdom near present-day Morganton. Records of Hernando de Soto attested to his meeting with them in 1540. In 1567 Captain Juan Pardo led an expedition to claim the area for the Spanish colony and to establish another route to protect silver mines in Mexico. Pardo made a winter base at Joara, which he renamed Cuenca. His expedition built Fort San Juan and left a contingent of 30 men there, while Pardo traveled further, and built and garrisoned five other forts. He returned by a different route to Santa Elena on Parris Island, South Carolina, then a center of Spanish Florida. In the spring of 1568, natives killed all but one of the soldiers and burned the six forts in the interior, including the one at Fort San Juan. Although the Spanish never returned to the interior, this effort marked the first European attempt at colonization of the interior of what became the United States. A 16th-century journal by Pardo's scribe Bandera and archaeological findings since 1986 at Joara have confirmed the settlement.
In 1584, Elizabeth I granted a charter to Sir Walter Raleigh, for whom the state capital is named, for land in present-day North Carolina (then part of the territory of Virginia). It was the second American territory which the English attempted to colonize. Raleigh established two colonies on the coast in the late 1580s, but both failed. The fate of the "Lost Colony" of Roanoke Island remains one of the most widely debated mysteries of American history. Virginia Dare, the first English child to be born in North America, was born on Roanoke Island on August 18, 1587; Dare County is named for her.
As early as 1650, settlers from the Virginia colony moved into the area of Albemarle Sound. By 1663, King Charles II of England granted a charter to start a new colony on the North American continent; it generally established North Carolina's borders. He named it Carolina in honor of his father Charles I. By 1665, a second charter was issued to attempt to resolve territorial questions. In 1710, owing to disputes over governance, the Carolina colony began to split into North Carolina and South Carolina. The latter became a crown colony in 1729.
In the 1700s, a series of smallpox epidemics swept the South, causing high fatalities among the Native Americans, who had no immunity to the new disease (it had become endemic in Europe). According to the historian Russell Thornton, "The 1738 epidemic was said to have killed one-half of the Cherokee, with other tribes of the area suffering equally."
After the Spanish in the 16th century, the first permanent European settlers of North Carolina were English colonists who migrated south from Virginia. The latter had grown rapidly and land was less available. Nathaniel Batts was documented as one of the first of these Virginian migrants. He settled south of the Chowan River and east of the Great Dismal Swamp in 1655. By 1663, this northeastern area of the Province of Carolina, known as the Albemarle Settlements, was undergoing full-scale English settlement. During the same period, the English monarch Charles II gave the province to the Lords Proprietors, a group of noblemen who had helped restore Charles to the throne in 1660. The new province of "Carolina" was named in honor and memory of King Charles I (Latin: Carolus). In 1712, North Carolina became a separate colony. Except for the Earl Granville holdings, it became a royal colony seventeen years later. A large revolt happened in the state in 1711 known as Cary's Rebellion.
Differences in the settlement patterns of eastern and western North Carolina, or the Low Country and uplands, affected the political, economic, and social life of the state from the 18th until the 20th century. The Tidewater in eastern North Carolina was settled chiefly by immigrants from rural England and the Scottish Highlands. The upcountry of western North Carolina was settled chiefly by Scots-Irish, English, and German Protestants, the so-called "cohee". Arriving during the mid- to late 18th century, the Scots-Irish from what is today Northern Ireland were the largest non-English immigrant group before the Revolution; English indentured servants were overwhelmingly the largest immigrant group before the Revolution. During the American Revolutionary War, the English and Highland Scots of eastern North Carolina tended to remain loyal to the British Crown, because of longstanding business and personal connections with Great Britain. The English, Welsh, Scots-Irish, and German settlers of western North Carolina tended to favor American independence from Britain.
Most of the English colonists had arrived as indentured servants, hiring themselves out as laborers for a fixed period to pay for their passage. In the early years the line between indentured servants and African slaves or laborers was fluid. Some Africans were allowed to earn their freedom before slavery became a lifelong status. Most of the free colored families formed in North Carolina before the Revolution were descended from unions or marriages between free white women and enslaved or free African or African-American men. Because the mothers were free, their children were born free. Many had migrated or were descendants of migrants from colonial Virginia. As the flow of indentured laborers to the colony decreased with improving economic conditions in Great Britain, planters imported more slaves, and the state's legal delineations between free and slave status tightened, effectively hardening the latter into a racial caste. The economy's growth and prosperity was based on slave labor, devoted first to the production of tobacco.
On April 12, 1776, the colony became the first to instruct its delegates to the Continental Congress to vote for independence from the British Crown, through the Halifax Resolves passed by the North Carolina Provincial Congress. The dates of both of these events are memorialized on the state flag and state seal. Throughout the Revolutionary War, fierce guerrilla warfare erupted between bands of pro-independence and pro-British colonists. In some cases the war was also an excuse to settle private grudges and rivalries. A major American victory in the war took place at King's Mountain along the North Carolina–South Carolina border; on October 7, 1780, a force of 1000 mountain men from western North Carolina (including what is today the state of Tennessee) and southwest Virginia overwhelmed a force of some 1000 British troops led by Major Patrick Ferguson. Most of the soldiers fighting for the British side in this battle were Carolinians who had remained loyal to the Crown (they were called "Tories" or Loyalists). The American victory at Kings Mountain gave the advantage to colonists who favored American independence, and it prevented the British Army from recruiting new soldiers from the Tories.
The road to Yorktown and America's independence from Great Britain led through North Carolina. As the British Army moved north from victories in Charleston and Camden, South Carolina, the Southern Division of the Continental Army and local militia prepared to meet them. Following General Daniel Morgan's victory over the British Cavalry Commander Banastre Tarleton at the Battle of Cowpens on January 17, 1781, southern commander Nathanael Greene led British Lord Charles Cornwallis across the heartland of North Carolina, and away from the latter's base of supply in Charleston, South Carolina. This campaign is known as "The Race to the Dan" or "The Race for the River."
In the Battle of Cowan's Ford, Cornwallis met resistance along the banks of the Catawba River at Cowan's Ford on February 1, 1781, in an attempt to engage General Morgan's forces during a tactical withdrawal. Morgan had moved to the northern part of the state to combine with General Greene's newly recruited forces. Generals Greene and Cornwallis finally met at the Battle of Guilford Courthouse in present-day Greensboro on March 15, 1781. Although the British troops held the field at the end of the battle, their casualties at the hands of the numerically superior Continental Army were crippling. Following this "Pyrrhic victory", Cornwallis chose to move to the Virginia coastline to get reinforcements, and to allow the Royal Navy to protect his battered army. This decision would result in Cornwallis' eventual defeat at Yorktown, Virginia, later in 1781. The Patriots' victory there guaranteed American independence.
On November 21, 1789, North Carolina became the twelfth state to ratify the Constitution. In 1840, it completed the state capitol building in Raleigh, still standing today. Most of North Carolina's slave owners and large plantations were located in the eastern portion of the state. Although North Carolina's plantation system was smaller and less cohesive than that of Virginia, Georgia, or South Carolina, significant numbers of planters were concentrated in the counties around the port cities of Wilmington and Edenton, as well as suburban planters around the cities of Raleigh, Charlotte, and Durham in the Piedmont. Planters owning large estates wielded significant political and socio-economic power in antebellum North Carolina, which was a slave society. They placed their interests above those of the generally non-slave-holding "yeoman" farmers of western North Carolina. In mid-century, the state's rural and commercial areas were connected by the construction of a 129-mile (208 km) wooden plank road, known as a "farmer's railroad", from Fayetteville in the east to Bethania (northwest of Winston-Salem).
Besides slaves, there were a number of free people of color in the state. Most were descended from free African Americans who had migrated along with neighbors from Virginia during the 18th century. The majority were the descendants of unions in the working classes between white women, indentured servants or free, and African men, indentured, slave or free. After the Revolution, Quakers and Mennonites worked to persuade slaveholders to free their slaves. Some were inspired by their efforts and the language of the Revolution to arrange for manumission of their slaves. The number of free people of color rose markedly in the first couple of decades after the Revolution.
On October 25, 1836, construction began on the Wilmington and Raleigh Railroad to connect the port city of Wilmington with the state capital of Raleigh. In 1849 the North Carolina Railroad was created by act of the legislature to extend that railroad west to Greensboro, High Point, and Charlotte. During the Civil War, the Wilmington-to-Raleigh stretch of the railroad would be vital to the Confederate war effort; supplies shipped into Wilmington would be moved by rail through Raleigh to the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia.
During the antebellum period, North Carolina was an overwhelmingly rural state, even by Southern standards. In 1860 only one North Carolina town, the port city of Wilmington, had a population of more than 10,000. Raleigh, the state capital, had barely more than 5,000 residents.
While slaveholding was slightly less concentrated than in some Southern states, according to the 1860 census, more than 330,000 people, or 33% of the population of 992,622, were enslaved African Americans. They lived and worked chiefly on plantations in the eastern Tidewater. In addition, 30,463 free people of color lived in the state. They were also concentrated in the eastern coastal plain, especially at port cities such as Wilmington and New Bern, where a variety of jobs were available. Free African Americans were allowed to vote until 1835, when the state revoked their suffrage in restrictions following the slave rebellion of 1831 led by Nat Turner. Southern slave codes criminalized willful killing of a slave in most cases.
In 1860, North Carolina was a slave state, in which one-third of the population was enslaved. This was a smaller proportion than in many Southern states. The state did not vote to join the Confederacy until President Abraham Lincoln called on it to invade its sister state, South Carolina, becoming the last or second-to-last state to officially join the Confederacy. The title of "last to join the Confederacy" has been disputed; although Tennessee's informal secession on May 7, 1861, preceded North Carolina's official secession on May 20, the Tennessee legislature did not formally vote to secede until June 8, 1861.
North Carolina was the site of few battles, but it provided the Confederacy with at least 125,000 troops, which is far more than any other state did. Approximately 40,000 of those troops died: more than half of disease, the remainder from battlefield wounds and from starvation. North Carolina also supplied about 15,000 Union troops. Elected in 1862, Governor Zebulon Baird Vance tried to maintain state autonomy against Confederate President Jefferson Davis in Richmond.
After secession, some North Carolinians refused to support the Confederacy. Some of the yeoman farmers in the state's mountains and western Piedmont region remained neutral during the Civil War, while some covertly supported the Union cause during the conflict. Approximately 2,000 North Carolinians from western North Carolina enlisted in the Union Army and fought for the North in the war. Two additional Union Army regiments were raised in the coastal areas of the state, which were occupied by Union forces in 1862 and 1863. Numerous slaves escaped to Union lines, where they became essentially free.
Confederate troops from all parts of North Carolina served in virtually all the major battles of the Army of Northern Virginia, the Confederacy's most famous army. The largest battle fought in North Carolina was at Bentonville, which was a futile attempt by Confederate General Joseph Johnston to slow Union General William Tecumseh Sherman's advance through the Carolinas in the spring of 1865. In April 1865, after losing the Battle of Morrisville, Johnston surrendered to Sherman at Bennett Place, in what is today Durham. North Carolina's port city of Wilmington was the last Confederate port to fall to the Union, in February 1865, after the Union won the nearby Second Battle of Fort Fisher, its major defense downriver.
The first Confederate soldier to be killed in the Civil War was Private Henry Wyatt from North Carolina, in the Battle of Big Bethel in June 1861. At the Battle of Gettysburg in July 1863, the 26th North Carolina Regiment participated in Pickett/Pettigrew's Charge and advanced the farthest into the Northern lines of any Confederate regiment. During the Battle of Chickamauga, the 58th North Carolina Regiment advanced farther than any other regiment on Snodgrass Hill to push back the remaining Union forces from the battlefield. At Appomattox Court House in Virginia in April 1865, the 75th North Carolina Regiment, a cavalry unit, fired the last shots of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia in the Civil War. For many years, North Carolinians proudly boasted that they had been "First at Bethel, Farthest at Gettysburg and Chickamauga, and Last at Appomattox."
The United States Census Bureau estimates that the population of North Carolina was 10,146,788 on July 1, 2016, a 6.4% increase since the 2010 United States Census. Of the people residing in North Carolina, 58.5% were born in North Carolina, 33.1% were born in another US state, 1.0% were born in Puerto Rico, U.S. Island areas, or born abroad to American parent(s), and 7.4% were born in another country. As of 2011, 49.8% of North Carolina's population younger than age 1 were minorities.
Demographics of North Carolina covers the varieties of ethnic groups that reside in North Carolina, along with the relevant trends.
The state's racial composition in the 2010 Census:
As of 2011, 49.8% of North Carolina's population younger than age 1 were minorities (meaning that they had at least one parent who was not non-Hispanic white).
As of 2010, 89.66% (7,750,904) of North Carolina residents age 5 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 over the age of five. In total, 10.34% (893,735) of North Carolina's population age 5 and older spoke a mother language other than English.
North Carolina residents, like those of other Southern states, since the colonial era have historically been overwhelmingly Protestant, first Anglican, then Baptist and Methodist. By the late 19th century, the largest Protestant denomination was the Baptist. After the Civil War, black Baptists were not allowed in white churches, due to segregation, and set up their own independent congregations. Black Baptists went on to develop their own state and national associations, to be free of white supervision.
While the Baptists in total (counting both blacks and whites) have maintained the majority in this part of the country (known as the Bible Belt), the population in North Carolina practices a wide variety of faiths, including Judaism, Islam, Baha'i, Buddhism, and Hinduism. As of 2010 the Southern Baptist Church was the biggest 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 congregations. The fourth greatest 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.
The state also has a special history with the Moravian Church, as settlers of this faith (largely of German origin) found a home in the Winston-Salem area in the 18th and 19th centuries. Presbyterians, historically Scots-Irish, have had a strong presence in Charlotte and in Scotland County.
Currently, the rapid influx of northerners and immigrants from Latin America is steadily increasing ethnic and religious diversity: the number of Roman Catholics and Jews in the state has increased, as well as general religious diversity. The second-largest Protestant denomination in North Carolina after Baptist traditions is Methodism, which is strong in the northern Piedmont, especially in populous Guilford County. 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 affiliation, including:
The state also has several major seminaries, including the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, and the Hood Theological Seminary (AME Zion) in Salisbury.
In 2016, the US Census Bureau released 2015 population estimate counts for North Carolina's counties. Mecklenburg County has the largest population, while Wake County has the second largest population in North Carolina.
In 2016, the US Census Bureau released 2015 population estimate counts for North Carolina's cities with populations above 70,000. Charlotte has the largest population, while Raleigh has the highest population density of North Carolina's largest cities.