February is Black History Month. The State Library would like to take this time to honor North Carolina's rich and diverse African-American heritage.

Since the first Africans arrived on the shores of North Carolina in the 16th century, African Americans have been making their mark on the fabric of North Carolina's history. Throughout the centuries, the black community has endured and evolved since the early days of enslavement through the upheaval of the Civil War to the promise of Emancipation and beyond. This state has had a prominent presence in the prosperity and progress of African Americans. For instance, the first black member of the U.S. Congress, Hiram Rhoades Revels, was a North Carolina native; the first Historically Black College and University (HBCU) in the South, Shaw University, was founded here; and the state is also home to one of the nation's oldest black-owned businesses, NC Mutual Insurance Company.

However, progress has not come without struggle. Many years after gaining their freedom, African Americans were still fighting for equal treatment under the law. The struggle for civil rights and equality gave rise to the Civil Rights Movement and North Carolina was at the forefront of the movement. The Greensboro sit-ins, in which four college students sat down at a lunch counter in Woolworth's to protest racial discrimination, has been hailed by many as a catalyst for the Civil Rights movement because it sparked a wave of non-violent protests across the South.

From slavery to freedom, African Americans have been making an impact on the state's as well as the nation's politics, educational institutions, businesses, armed forces, religious practices, arts and sports. As recently as 2008, North Carolina proved to be a pivotal state in the election of the country's first African-American president.

Please join the State Library as we celebrate the heritage of North Carolina's African-American community.

back to topHistory and Reference

  • State Library of North Carolina, Government and Heritage Library, Catalog
    Materials in our collection about African Americans in North Carolina
    Materials in our collection about African-American history in North Carolina
  • NC Digital Collections, An Era of Progress and Promise: Education and Religion in Post-Emancipation America, 1863-1910, a 400+ page book compiled by W.N. Hartshorn, written in 1910, provides a comprehensive portrait of early African-American schools, college, and churches as well as biographies of African-American educators, ministers and influential businessman.
  • NC Digital Collections, Transforming the Tar Heel State - statewide collaborative digital project that celebrates North Carolina public libraries by providing digital versions of historical photographs, postcards, reports and other unique materials related to the libraries of NC. Many of these materials relate to the African-American library experience in the state during segregation.
  • UNC-Chapel Hill, Davis Library, African-American History Across North Carolina
    Listing which highlights some important dates for African-American history throughout the state. The information is grouped by region.
  • UNC-Chapel Hill Libraries, The Story of Slavery in North Carolina
    A collection of over 200 autobiographies by slaves or ex-slaves transcribed from the North American Slave Narratives collection in Documenting the American South. Includes images, list of primary resources online, an educators' guide and a students' guide.
  • UNC-Chapel Hill Libraries, Documenting the American South, Oral Histories of the American South, The Civil Rights Movement
    A collection of interviews from those who experienced and participated in the movement in North Carolina and other parts of the South.
  • UNC-Chapel Hill Libraries, Documenting the American South, The Church in the Southern Black Community
    Digital collection of autobiographies, biographies, church documents, sermons, histories, encyclopedias, and other published materials presenting "a collected history of the way Southern blacks experienced and transformed Protestant Christianity into the central institution of community life."
  • UNC-Chapel Hill Libraries, African-American Newspapers
    This guide lists African-American newspapers published in North Carolina from the 19th century through the present.
  • UNC-Greensboro Libraries, Civil Rights Greensboro
    Archival resources documenting the modern civil rights era in Greensboro, North Carolina, from the 1940s to the early 1980s.
  • North Carolina Central University, Shepard Memorial Library, Dr. Henry Lewis Suggs African and African-American History Collection -
    A collection of historical documents which contains 1200 volumes of collected works of Dr. Suggs, including valuable research papers amassed over his professional career.
  • East Carolina University, Joyner Library Digital Collection, African-American History-
    Digital collection of historical documents, images and oral interviews.
  • Duke University Libraries, Digital Collections
    Digital collections of various African-American historical resources which includes images and documents. When searching the digital collection's web page, choose the African-American subject heading.
  • 1891 Wilmington Race Riot Commission
    In 2000, the North Carolina General Assembly established the Commission to develop a historical record of the event.
  • Born in Slavery: Slave Narratives from the Federal Writer's Project, 1936-1938
    Database from the Library of Congress' American Memory online historical collections which contains thousands of first-person narratives of slavery and 500 photographs, covering 18 states.
  • Library of Congress, African-American Soldiers during the Civil War
    Features a timeline and documents related to the service of African-American soldiers during the Civil War.
  • National Archives Library
    A collection of links to resources on black history from the National Archives Library Information Center.
  • National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution, Stories of Freedom and Justice
    This year marks the 50th anniversary of the student sit-ins in Greensboro, NC lunch counter. To commemorate this event, the Museum is exploring stories of Freedom and Justice throughout 2010.
  • New York Public Library, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture
    Recognized as one of the leading institutions of its kind in the world. The Center has collected, preserved and provided access to materials documenting black life, and promoted the study and interpretation and culture of peoples of African descent.
  • HBCU Library Alliance
    Digital collection of primary resources from Historically Black College and University libraries and archives.
  • State Archives of North Carolina
    Flickr collection of images that depict February 1960 civil rights actions in Raleigh.
  • DID YOU KNOW?Black Wall Street

    Durham was the home of "Black Wall Street"? In the early decades of the 1900's Durham acquired a national reputation for entrepreneurship.Businesses owned by African Americans lined Parrish Street. Among them were NC Mutual Life Insurance Company(the oldest and largest black owned insurance company in the nation), Mechanics and Farmers Bank and Mutual Community Savings Bank.

back to topHistoric Attractions/Museums

  • Charlotte Hawkins Brown Museum
    Memorial honors Charlotte Hawkins Brown who founded the Palmer Institute, a boarding school for "colored" students, in 1902. Visitors to the campus can explore the unique environment where students lived and learned during the greater part of 20th century.
  • Historic Stagville
    The remains of the state's largest plantation, owned by the Bennehan-Cameron family. On-site is the 18th century Benehan House, four slave houses and a timber framed barn built by skilled slave craftsmen.
  • Somerset Place
    One of the south's largest antebellum plantations which housed 850 enslaved people. Today the site offers a realistic view of the lifestyles of all of the residents on a large North Carolina plantation in the 19th century.
  • International Civil Rights Center and Museum
    Opening in February, 2010, the museum is an archival center, collecting museum and teaching facility devoted to the international struggle for civil and human rights. The museum celebrates the nonviolent protest of the 1960 Greensboro sit-ins, which served as a catalyst in the civil rights movement.
  • Hayti Heritage Center
    Founded in 1975, cultural and educational institution in historic Hayti community of Durham that offers diverse programs that examines the experiences of Americans of African descent locally, nationally and globally. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
  • Oliver Nestus Freeman Roundhouse Museum
    Oliver Nestus Freeman, a black stone mason built this circular home in 1946, which today houses a museum of artifacts that documents the contributions of African Americans in the city of Wilson.
  • Pea Island Cookhouse
    Museum serves as a tribute to the African-American men who served at the Pea Island Lifesaving Station from 1880-1947, the first life-saving station to be manned by African Americans.
    Information on the Town of Manteo website.
  • Pope House Museum
    Built in 1901 the Pope House represents life for a prominent black family in the early 20th century. The house contains a large collection of original furnishings, artifacts and documents which date back to 1851.
  • African-American Cultural Complex
    Museum contains a unique collection of artifacts, documents and displays of contributions made by African Americans in North Carolina and America.
  • Montford Point Marine Museum
    African-American men who were called to serve as marines during WWII, received their basic training at segregated Montford Point Camp at Camp Lejuene. This museum, which contains photos, artifacts, diaries and other documents, was established to preserve their legacy.
  • Historic Jarvisburg Colored School
    Founded as a church-funded school for educating newly freed black children. The restored school building houses a museum and is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
  • Historic Cabarrus Association
    The Concord Museum and The Cabarrus County Veterans Museum.
  • Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture
    Cultural institution which celebrates the contributions of Africans and African Americans to American culture and serves as a community epicenter for music, dance, theater, visual art, film arts education programs, literature and community outreach.
  • North Carolina A&T University, Mattye Reed African Heritage Center Gallery
    Gallery on campus of North Carolina A&T University which contains two collections: Mattye Reed African Heritage dedicated to ancestral and contemporary arts of Africa and the Caribbean and Henry Taylor collection which centers around the work of African-American artists.
  • North Carolina Central University, Art Museum
    Museum features works of various African-American artists from both 19th and 20th centuries as well as a selection of objects from Africa.
  • Winston Salem-State University, Diggs Museum of Art and History
    Gallery offers one of the largest exhibition spaces dedicated to the arts of Africa and the African Diaspora in North Carolina.


Edenton, NC, provided slaves a means of escape with the Maritime Underground Railroad before Emancipation. Edenton was also the home of the escaped slave, abolitionist and writer Harriet Jacobs (1813-1897), who hid there for seven years before fleeing to freedom.



Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs, originally published in 1861.

One of the first personal narratives by a slave and one of the few written by a woman.

back to topGenealogy

  • Afrigeneas-African Ancestored Genealogy
    Website features an online interactive beginner's guide to research, forums and chat room for discussions, various databases including death and marriage records, and a Slave Data Collection searchable by state or surname.
  • Finding Slave Records
    Efforts to find records of ancestors believed to have been enslaved require thorough preparation before beginning research prior to 1865.
  • Search the Government & Heritage Library's catalog for general materials on African-American genealogical research in our collection
  • NC Digital Collections, Family Bible Records
    North Carolina Family Records Online currently contains hundreds of Bible records (lists of birth, marriage and death information recorded in North Carolina Bibles throughout the 18th-20th centuries). Many of these records contain information related to Black families during the time of slavery.
  • State Archives of North Carolina Information
    Circular 17: Preliminary Guide to Records Relating to African Americans in the State Archives of North Carolina
  • Digital Library on American Slavery
    UNC- Greensboro collection of legislative and county court petitions from Southern states 1777-1867 offers a searchable database of detailed personal information about slaves, slaveholders, and free people of color.
  • Stagville African-American Genealogy
    Genealogical information relating to the large African-American community at Historic Stagville state historic site in Durham County, NC, prior to the Civil War.
  • Somerset Place: The Slave Community
    A state historic site in Washington county, NC, Somerset Place became one of the upper South's largest plantations with more than 850 slaves. Website includes a "partial list of negroes at Lake Phelps, July 1939," with some relationships stated.
  • UNC-Asheville, Ramsey Library,South Asheville Colored Cemetery, 1840-1943
    Interviews with elderly African-American natives of Asheville, NC, give a vivid record of rites of death and burial for black residents of Asheville before 1940. Includes a partial listing from the Buncombe County Death Registry of persons buried there and photographs of tombstones.
  • African-American Cemeteries Online
    Respectable number of North Carolina cemeteries which can provide crucial information and clues for further research for the African-American genealogist.
  • Free African Americans of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Maryland and Delaware
    Paul Heinegg's extensive genealogical research of free African Americans, from the Colonial period to about 1820. Site offers information such as transcriptions and abstracts from tax lists, deeds and wills.
  • Freedman's Bureau Online
    Freedman's Bureau records relating to the Southern states: Labor contracts, indentures(apprentices), reports of outages and arrests, 1865-1867.
  • Freedman's Bank
    Registers of Signatures of Depositors in branches of the Freedman's Savings and Trust Company 1865-74, founded to serve freed blacks after the Civil War. Personal identification data may include information about family, former owner, place of birth and upbringing.
    (Remote access available to North Carolina residents via NC LIVE through their local libraries. Other states offer similar accessibility.)


back to topOrganizations

  • North Carolina Legislative Black Caucus Foundation
    The North Carolina Legislative Black Caucus Foundation has provided support to higher education in North Carolina for more than 25 years by awarding need-based scholarships to students attending one of the 10 participating Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) in North Carolina.
  • North Carolina Black Leadership Caucus
    Organized in 1976, the NCBLC is a nonpartisan association of community members throughout the state devoted to promoting social justice and economic self-sufficiency for all.
  • African-American Dance Ensemble
    Based in Durham, the nationally recognized dance ensemble seeks to preserve and share the finest traditions of African and African-American dance and music through research, education and entertainment.
  • North Carolina Black Repertory Company-National Black Theater Festival
    First profession black theater company in the state, founded by Larry Leon Hamlin. The Company is universally recognized for its artistic and administrative achievement and its international outreach program, the National Black Theatre Festival.
  • YMI Cultural Center
    Formally known as the Young Men's Institute, built in 1893 by George Vanderbilt for the young black men of Asheville. Community-based, non-profit organization devoted to promoting cultural and economic well being of minority and low-income people in Western North Carolina.
  • Association for the Study of African-American Life and History
    Established in 1915, the ASALH are recognized as the "Founders of Black History Month" under the leadership of its founder Dr. Carter G. Woodson, also known as the "Father of Black History". Their mission is to promote , research, preserve, interpret and disseminate information about Black life, history and culture to the global community.
    Founded 1909, the NAACP is the nation's oldest, largest and most-widely recognized grassroots-based civil rights organization. The organization has more than half-million supporters worldwide and are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities, conducting voter mobilization and monitoring equal opportunity in the public and private sectors.
  • National Urban League
    Founded in 1910, the Urban League is a historic civil rights organization dedicated to economic empowerment in order to elevate the standard of living in historically underserved urban communities.

Women graduates

back to topHBCUs/Education

  • Barber-Scotia College
    Founded in 1867, by as a college to train "colored women as teachers and social workers." Today, the small, co-ed independent college offers undergraduate programs in religious studies and bio-energy.
  • Bennett College for Women
    Founded in 1873 as an institution of higher learning for Black women. Currently, enrolling over 700 students offering twenty-four areas of study.
  • Elizabeth City State University
    Founded as a college for "colored" teachers in 1891. ECSU, a constituent institution of the UNC system, offers baccalaureate, graduate and professional programs for a diverse student body.
  • Fayetteville State University
    Founded in 1867, FSU is the second-oldest public institution in North Carolina. A member of the UNC system, FSU has more than 6300 students and offers degrees in 70 undergraduate and graduate degree programs.
  • Livingstone College
    Founded in 1879 by a group of A.M.E Zion ministers for the purpose of training ministers.the second-oldest public institution in North Carolina. The college now has over 1,000 students and offers baccalaureate studies in humanities, science, fine arts and social studies.
  • Johnson C. Smith University
    Founded in 1867, JCSU is an independent, private, coed institution of higher learning. The university enrolls approximately 1,500 students and confers bachelor's degrees to hundreds of students each year in 27 different majors.
  • North Carolina A&T University
    Founded in 1891, NCA&T is a constituent institution of the UNC system, with an enrollment over 10,000. The university offers 117 undergraduate degree programs, more than 58 master's degree programs and Ph.D. programs.
  • North Carolina Central University
    Founded in 1910, NCCU is a comprehensive institution and part of the UNC system. The university, which has an enrollment over 9,000, offers bachelor's degrees in more than 100 fields of study and awards graduate degrees in 40 disciplines.
  • St. Augustine College
    Founded just after the Civil War by Episcopalians for the purpose of educating freed slaves. Today, the school has a diverse enrollment of over 1,500 an offers undergraduate degrees in humanities, business and science.
  • Shaw University
    Founded in 1865, Shaw is the oldest HBCU in the South and established the nation's first 4-year medical school. currently, the university has an enrollment over 2500 and offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in a variety of disciplines.
  • Winston-Salem University
    Founded in 1892, WSSU is a constituent institution of the UNC system. Enrolling over 6,000 students, WSSU awards degrees in over 40 undergraduate and 10 graduate programs.
  • Laurinburg Institute
    Founded in 1904 as a preparatory school with the purpose of offering quality education to black children.
  • North Carolina State University, African-American Cultural Center
    Promoting awareness and appreciation for African-American experience through activities and events that enhance academic excellence.
  • UNC- Chapel Hill, Sonya Stone Center
    The mission of the center is to encourage and support the critical examination of African-American, African and African diaspora cultures through open discussion, dialogue and debate and to enhance the intellectual and socio-cultural climate at the university and beyond.
  • UNC-Wilmington, Upperman African-American Cultural Center
    Named after local physician Dr. Leroy Upperman, the center provides the students, faculty and staff the opportunity to experience the heritage of African-americans from artistic, cultural, educational and historic perspectives.

back to topSpotlight

  • North Carolina African-American Heritage Commission
    The commission, which was established by the North Carolina General Assembly in the 2007-08 session, will advise and assist the Secretary of Cultural Resources in the preservation, interpretation and promotion of African-American history arts and culture.
  • Politics/Law
    • Hiram Rhoades Revels-born in Fayetteville, was the first black member of the United States Congress, veteran of the Civil War and a minister who tended Black congregations in several state.
    • Dr. Henry E. Frye-born in Dr. Henry E. FryeRichmond County, was the first African-American elected to the North Carolina General Assembly in the 20th century. He was also the first African-American to serve as an associate justice of the NC Supreme Court and eventually the first to serve as Chief Justice.
  • Education
  • Business
  • Medicine
  • The Arts
  • Sports
  • Other Notable Carolinians
    • Patricia Timmons Goodson -Associate Justice, NC Supreme Court
    • John Chavis - Educator/Minister
    • Randall Kenan - Author/UNC professor
    • Roberta Flack - Singer/songwriter
    • Shirly Caesar - Gospel singer/minister
    • Thelonius Monk - Jazz pianist/composer
    • Nina Simone -Jazz singer/pianist
    • Romare Bearden - Visual Artist
    • Meadowlark Lemon -Harlem Globetrotters basketball player
    • Michael Jordan - NBA basketball player

back to topDemographics


back to topResources for Youth

back to topImage Credits

Header: Image courtesy of Greensboro News & Record photo by Jack Moebes, copyright 1960.

History and Reference: Image courtesy of Durham County government.

Historic Attractions/Museums: Image courtesy of NC Department of Cultural Resources.

HBCUs/Education: Image courtesy of NC Historic Sites.

Spotlight: Image courtesy of NC Museum of History

Resources for Youth: Image courtesy of State Library Digital Collections