Today in History

Today in History: November 21

North Carolina

page from a handwritten document
Tobias Lear, November 21, 1789, North Carolina Convention Resolution,
Series 2, Letterbook 25.
George Washington Papers at the Library of Congress, 1741-1799

On November 21, 1789, North Carolina ratified the Constitution to become the twelfth state in the Union. The vote came approximately two hundred years after the first white settlers arrived on the fertile Atlantic coastal plain.

Originally inhabited by a number of native tribes, including the Cherokee, Catawba, Tuscarora, and Coratans, North Carolina was the first American territory that the English attempted to colonize. Sir Walter Raleigh, for whom the state capital is named, chartered two colonies on the North Carolina coast in the late 1580s; both ended in failure. The demise of one, the "Lost Colony" of Roanoke Island, remains one of the great mysteries of American history.

By the late seventeenth century, several permanent settlements had taken hold in the Carolina territory, which also encompassed present-day South Carolina and Tennessee. From 1629 until 1712, the colonies of North and South Carolina were one unit. Under the terms of the North Carolina Biennial Act 1712, North Carolina became a separate colony with its own assembly and council. In 1729, North Carolina became a Royal English colony. On April 12, 1776, the North Carolina Provincial Congress, in its Halifax Resolves, authorized its delegates to the Continental Congress to vote for independence from the British crown.

North Carolina was a battleground during both the Revolutionary War and the Civil War. Divided on whether to support the North or the South, in 1861, North Carolina voted to undo the act that had granted it statehood. North Carolina was readmitted to the Union in 1868. To learn more about North Carolina's role during the Civil War, see the Today in History feature on Union General William T. Sherman's victory at Fayetteville.

In the 1930s, the Farm Security Administration (FSA) sent some of the nation's finest photographers to North Carolina to document rural life and the adverse effects of the Great Depression.

Man picking cotton
Statesville, North Carolina. The Oldest Son of J. A. Johnson Picking Cotton,
Marion Post Wolcott, photographer,
October 1939.
America from the Great Depression to World War II: Photographs from the FSA and OWI, ca. 1935-1945