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North Carolina Freedom Park: A History of Freedom

This guide contains information about the creation of the NC Freedom Park and its board members; an overview of African American history in North Carolina; and the themes of freedom as they relate to culture, education, and business and law.

North Carolina Historical Time Periods

The Colonial Period: 1607-1775

This period of time in North Carolina covers the development and growth of the new colony. North Carolina received a majority of its enslaved people via overland trade from its north and southern border because of its dangerous coastline. Distribution of the enslaved followed agricultural patterns. Large enslaved populations existed in the eastern parts of the state. 

This period is also characterized by Native American displacement and conflict. African American runaways were known to often coexist and live with certain groups of Native Americans. 

The Revolutionary Period: 1775-1783

The colonies are beginning to have discussions about freedom, taxation of citizens, and the rights of man. These discussions escalate and lead to conflict with the mother country of Great Britain.

The Revolutionary War period was just as important for African Americans because they, too, are questioning what it means to be American and how their freedoms are just as important.   

The Antebellum Period: 1815-1861

Also called the Pre-Civil War Period or the Plantation Era. This period of time covers the economic growth of the South and the rise of slave abolitionists and rebellions.

The Civil War Period: 1861-1865

The war between the North and the South. There has been much debate over the real reason that the war was fought; regardless, the continuation of slavery was a central point of discussion and conflict. Despite being one of the last two states to adopt a secession ordinance, North Carolina ended up sending the most men and suffering the most casualties of any Confederate State.

Enslaved African Americans who were able to get away from the plantation often went to join the Union forces, with hopes that freedom was on the other side of victory.

The Reconstruction Era: 1865-1877

After the war, Union troops were still occupying some of the South. The South was left with the task of rebuilding itself. African Americans, now free from slavery, had the task of creating a life for themselves. African Americans began to advocate for voting rights, education, and the ability to serve in political positions. This is also the time that most African Americans served in political positions. 

The Jim Crow Era: 1877-1964

This time period is characterized by strict discrimination laws, lynching, and the terrorization of the black community. The takeover of the Democratic party led to the creation of racial segregation, and the disfranchisement of the black vote.

The Civil Rights Era: 1954-1968

This period of time is characterized by the rise of African American leaders like Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. There is an increased push and effort for voting rights, equal education, and integration. This period is also known for the increase of peaceful movements and the creation of Civil Rights groups, such as the Black Panther Party and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.



Balanoff, Elizabeth. “Negro Legislators in the North Carolina General Assembly, July, 1868-February, 1872.” The North Carolina Historical Review 49, no. 1 (1972): 22-55.

Cecelski, David S. “The Shores of Freedom: The Maritime Underground Railroad in North Carolina, 1800-1861.” The North Carolina Historical Review 71, no. 2 (1994): 174-206.

Crow, Jeffrey J. “Slave Rebelliousness and Social Conflict in North Carolina, 1775 to 1802.” The William and Mary Quarterly 37, no. 1 (1980): 79-102.

Dionne Danns, and Michelle A. Purdy. “Introduction: Historical Perspectives on African American Education, Civil Rights, and Black Power.” The Journal of African American History 100, no. 4 (2015): 573-85.

Harris, Nelson H. “Desegregation in North Carolina.” The Journal of Negro Education 25, no. 3 (1956): 299-306.

Linda M. Perkins. “‘Bound to Them by a Common Sorrow’: African American Women, Higher Education, and Collective Advancement.” The Journal of African American History 100, no. 4 (2015): 721-47.

Nelson, B. H. “Some Aspects of Negro Life in North Carolina During the Civil War.” The North Carolina Historical Review 25, no. 2 (1948): 143-66.

Peebles-Wilkins, Wilma. “Reactions of Segments of the Black Community to the North Carolina Pearsall Plan, 1954-1966.” Phylon (1960-) 48, no. 2 (1987): 112-21.

Phifer, Edward W. “Slavery in Microcosm: Burke County, North Carolina.” The Journal of Southern History 28, no. 2 (1962): 137-65.

Reid, George W. “Four in Black: North Carolina’s Black Congressmen, 1874-1901.” The Journal of Negro History 64, no. 3 (1979): 229-43.

Rohrs, Richard C. “The Free Black Experience in Antebellum Wilmington, North Carolina: Refining Generalizations about Race Relations.” The Journal of Southern History 78, no. 3 (2012): 615-38.

Schweninger, Loren. “Prosperous Blacks in the South, 1790-1880.” The American Historical Review 95, no. 1 (1990): 31-56.

Watson, Alan D. “Impulse Toward Independence: Resistance and Rebellion Among North Carolina Slaves, 1750-1775.” The Journal of Negro History 63, no. 4 (1978): 317-28.

Watson, Alan D. “North Carolina Slave Courts, 1715-1785.” The North Carolina Historical Review 60, no. 1 (1983): 24-36.

Online Resources

African American Registry

African American Resources/LibGuides, State Library of North Carolina

African-American Newspapers in North Carolina, DigitalNC

African Americans in North Carolina, A Bibliography of Sources Available in the North Carolina Collection and Wilson Library at the UNC-Chapel Hill

Beyond the Beach: African-American History in Coastal Carolina, Sea Grant NC Coastal Grant

Black History Month: A Medical Perspective: Hospitals, Duke Medical Center Library and Archives, the online guide to African American History

Digital SNCC Gateway

Documenting the American South

Negro Hospital and Medical Needs NC 1945, undated, Leslie Brown Papers Duke University

North Carolina Digital Collections

NCpedia: Black and African People,

NCpedia: Exploring North Carolina: African American History

North Carolina Architects & Builders: A Biographical Dictionary, NC State University.

North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program, North Carolina Department of Natural & Cultural Resources.

Oral Histories of the American South, Documenting the American South

State Library of North Carolina

State Archives of North Carolina