1000 BCE

About 30 tribes of Native Americans permanently settle in North Carolina. 

1584–85 CE

Sir Walter Raleigh sends shiploads of people to Roanoke Island to establish the New World’s first English colony. The colonists return to England the next year.  


John White establishes a second colony at Roanoke. Virginia Dare, the namesake of Dare County, is born, the first English child christened in America. By 1590, the so-called Lost Colony has vanished. 


What is now North Carolina gets its first permanent European settler, Nathaniel Batts. 


King Charles II issues the Carolina Charter, which gives the Carolinas to the Lords Proprietors, eight of his closest supporters during the Restoration of 1660. The Lords Proprietors offer additional acreage for every enslaved person brought to the Carolinas during the first five years of white settlement. 


The Carolinas split into two royal colonies. At the time, North Carolina has 6,000 enslaved people; South Carolina, 32,000. 


North Carolina becomes the first state to vote in favor of the Declaration of Independence. 


Delegates to the Hillsborough Convention decline to either ratify or reject the U.S. Constitution. North Carolina officially remains out of the union until November 1789, when a second convention in Fayetteville ratifies the document.


The state charters the University of North Carolina, the oldest public university in the U.S. 


Raleigh is established as the state’s “unalterable seat of government,” thanks to its proximity to Isaac Hunter’s tavern, which was popular among delegates to the Hillsborough Convention. 



The legislature bans free blacks from entering. A decade later, they lost their right to vote, preach in public, sell liquor, own a gun without a special permit, and attend any public school.


The new State Capitol is completed. 


Dr. Bartlett Durham, for whom the Bull City will be named, donates land for a railroad station that would later become vital to the tobacco industry. As the story goes, store owner William Pratt was approached first but asked for too much money. At the time, Durham was called Prattsburg; Pratt’s store had developed a rep as a place for “evil-disposed persons of evil name and fame and conversation to come together.”


The first N.C. State Fair is held near Raleigh. 

North Carolina is the last Southern state to secede from the Union and join the Confederacy. Over the next four years, 40,000 residents would die in the Civil War, including Henry Lawson Wyatt, said to be (but not) the first Confederate to fall in action. You can find his monument on the State Capitol grounds. 


Washington Duke begins producing pipe tobacco out of a converted corn crib in what is now Durham. Eventually, the American Tobacco Company would become the largest tobacco manufacturer in the world. 


North Carolina is readmitted to the Union. 


Durham is incorporated. 


The North Carolina College of Agriculture and Mechanical Arts—later N.C. State—opens. 


Trinity College relocates from Randolph County to Durham; it’s renamed Duke University in 1924. 


Armed white supremacists, fueled by Raleigh’s News & Observer, overthrow the Fusionist government of Wilmington—then North Carolina’s largest city—the only coup d’état in American history. At least 60 black men are murdered, and black businesses are destroyed. 


John Merrick founds the North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company in Durham, today the largest African American-owned life insurance company in the U.S. By the early 1900s, Parrish Street had become known as Black Wall Street.  



The Wright brothers fly a plane in Kitty Hawk. 


James E. Shephard founds North Carolina Central University. In 1939, the state will establish a law school for black students there. 


North Carolina opens its first state park, Mount Mitchell. 


Camp (later Fort) Bragg opens. The armed forces buy the entire production of roll-your-own Bull Durham tobacco for troops in World War I. 


The General Assembly sends a telegram to Tennessee lawmakers pleading with them not to ratify the 19th Amendment, which will give women the right to vote. Tennessee does so anyway. 


Two years after the repeal of the 18th Amendment, North Carolina ends the prohibition of alcohol, but to this day, the sale of liquor is still controlled by a state monopoly.


Duke hosts the only Rose Bowl ever not played in Pasadena, California. The game, which takes place less than a month after Pearl Harbor, is moved out of fear of Japanese attack. 


In his book Southern Politics in State and Nation, famed political scientist V.O. Key sets North Carolina apart from the rest of the Deep South, saying the state “enjoys a reputation for progressive outlook and action in many phases of life, especially industrial development, education, and race relations.”


Durham elects two white women to the city council. Two years later, it elects its first African American. 


UNC-Chapel Hill admits its first three African American freshmen.


The General Assembly passes a constitutional amendment to circumvent a 1954 Supreme Court ruling outlawing school segregation by letting school districts pay white parents to send their kids to private schools. 


The North Carolina Museum of Art opens. 


Seven African Americans are arrested while protesting segregation inside the Royal Ice Cream parlor in Durham. The state and U.S. supreme courts reject their appeals; they pay $433.25 in fines. 


Jesse Helms is elected to the Raleigh City Council. Raging against the civil rights movement and liberals as an editorialist for WRAL, he is later elected to the U.S. Senate in 1972, where he serves until 2003. 


Durham launches a commission to oversee urban renewal. The plan leads to the decimation of the black community of Hayti.  


Research Triangle Park opens in between Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill, laying the groundwork for the region’s tech economy. 


The first sit-in to protest segregation takes place in Greensboro. 


John Winters becomes the first African American elected to the Raleigh City Council. 


North Carolina Senator Sam Ervin is selected to head the committee that will investigate the Watergate break-in.


Clarence Lightner becomes the first—and, so far, only—African American mayor of Raleigh. He loses his re-election bid in 1975. 


Construction begins on Raleigh’s Fayetteville Street Mall, which, in retrospect, was a spectacularly bad idea that shut down vehicular access to downtown’s main drag and led to businesses closing. 


Retired library worker Isabella Cannon—the “little old lady in tennis shoes”—becomes the first female mayor of Raleigh and of any major North Carolina city. She loses her re-election bid two years later. 


Michael Jordan hits a game-winning jump shot against Georgetown to secure UNC’s second NCAA championship. A year later, N.C. State upsets Houston to win the NCAA title. Since 1982, a Triangle team has won the title eleven times. 


Fresh off serving eight days in jail for protesting a nuclear power plant, Steve Schewel founds The Independent Weekly, which publishes the next year. This is indisputably the most consequential event in Triangle history. 


The movie Bull Durham is released, making the Durham Bulls the most recognizable team in minor league sports.


Chester L. Jenkins becomes the first African American mayor of Durham, having previously served on the city council for eight years. He loses his re-election bid two years later. 


Dan Blue of Raleigh becomes the first African American House speaker in North Carolina history.


Sylvia Kerchhoff becomes the first woman mayor of Durham. She serves for two terms.


The Hartford Whalers relocate to Raleigh and rebrand as the Carolina Hurricanes, the region’s first major professional sports team. In 2006, the Hurricanes win the Stanley Cup. After years of awfulness, they make it back to the finals in 2019 (and get swept). 



Capitol Broadcasting Company purchases the nearly abandoned American Tobacco Campus as part of a plan to redevelop downtown Durham. It adjoins the Durham Bulls Athletic Park, which opened in 1995.


Elizabeth Dole becomes the first woman to represent North Carolina in the U.S. Senate. 


U.S. Senator John Edwards of North Carolina is John Kerry’s vice-presidential candidate. A few years later, he runs for president; let’s just say it didn’t end well. Edwards still has a law firm on Raleigh’s Glenwood Avenue.


Governor Mike Easley signs HB 392. Known as Pop the Cap, it lifts the limit on the alcohol by volume of beer that could be sold in North Carolina from 6 percent to 15 percent and, in the process, kick-starts the state’s craft-brewing industry. 


Under Mayor Charles Meeker, Raleigh reopens Fayetteville Street, kicking off a wave of downtown redevelopment. 


The Durham Performing Arts Center opens. 


For the first time since 1898, Republicans regain control of both branches of the General Assembly and promptly gerrymander the state’s legislative and congressional districts. Two years later, they’ll claim the governor’s office and radically reorient the state’s government in a conservative direction. 

The legislature passes HB 2, the so-called bathroom bill. Republican governor Pat McCrory then loses his reelection bid. North Carolina nonetheless votes for Donald Trump. Sigh.


Demonstrators topple a Confederate monument in downtown Durham. A year later, protesters do the same with Silent Sam, a Confederate monument on the UNC campus. 


Steve Schewel, who founded humanity’s greatest newspaper, becomes mayor of Durham. 


Downtown Durham’s 27-story One City Center high-rise opens, as does the city-block-size The Dillon in Raleigh’s Warehouse District.


A gas explosion in downtown Durham kills two and injures two dozen. 


Durham celebrates its 150th birthday. The day she announces her departure, UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Carol Folt has Silent Sam’s base removed, ensuring we never have to talk about the damn thing again. Raleigh’s Ashley Christensen wins the James Beard Award for Outstanding Chef, then opens a pizza joint that is every bit as good as you’d expect. Everything is going swimmingly.   

Comment on this story at jbillman@indyweek.com. 

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