LEARN NC was a program of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Education from 1997 – 2013. It provided lesson plans, professional development, and innovative web resources to support teachers, build community, and improve K-12 education in North Carolina. Learn NC is no longer supported by the School of Education – this is a historical archive of their website.

  1. Credits & acknowledgments
  2. Introduction
  3. About this "digital textbook"
  1. 1 Changes in agriculture
    1. 1.1
      Life on the land: The Piedmont before industrialization
      In the decades after the Civil War, commercial agriculture and industry made their way into the North Carolina Piedmont, requiring subsistence farmers to adapt their farms and their ways of life to new economic realities.
      • Format: article
      • Relevant dates: 1870–1900
    2. 1.2
      A revolution in agriculture
      Science and technology made farmers more productive in the nineteenth century, but added expenses that drove small farmers off the land.
      • Format: article
      • Relevant dates: 1830–1900
    3. 1.3
      Sharecropping and tenant farming
      After the Civil War, former slaves and white farmers forced off the land by hard times rented land as tenants or worked for a share of the crop they produced, often living in continual debt.
      • Format: article
      • Relevant dates: 1865–1900
    4. 1.4
      Life on the land: Voices
      Excerpts of oral history interviews with men and women who grew up on farms in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century North Carolina.
      • Format: interview
      • Relevant dates: 1880–1910
    5. 1.5
      A sharecropper's contract
      Contract between William Grimes and his sharecroppers, 1882. Includes historical commentary.
      • Format: document
      • Relevant dates: 1870–1900
    6. 1.6
      The struggles of a tenant farmer
      Copy of a mortgage and accounts of a tenant farmer in late nineteenth-century North Carolina, showing his struggles in paying off his debts. Includes historical background and activity questions.
      • Format: activity
      • Relevant dates: 1880–1890
    7. 1.7
      The evils of the crop lien system
      In the post-Civil War South, the crop lien system allowed farmers to obtain supplies, such as food and seed, on credit from merchants; the debt was to be repaid after the crop was harvested and brought to market. This excerpt from a 1903 book is a commentary on the dangers of overspending and bankruptcy for farmers who go into debt.
      • Format: book (excerpt)
      • Relevant dates: 1865–1920
    8. 1.8
      Tobacco farming the old way
      From about 1880 until the 1950s, tobacco farming was extremely labor-intensive and relied on hand work and animal power. This article explains the process of growing tobacco for market "the old way."
      • Format: article
      • Relevant dates: 1880–1950
    9. 1.9
      The history of the state fair
      The North Carolina State Fair was begun in the 1850s to showcase improvements in agriculture and teach farmers about scientific farming. By the early twentieth century it had grown and changed, but still held to its basic mission.
      • Format: article
      • Relevant dates: 1852–2001
    10. 1.10
      The African American State Fair
      For several years in the late nineteenth century, African American farmers held their own state fair in Raleigh to showcase improvements in agriculture.
      • Format: article
      • Relevant dates: 1879–1890
  2. 2 Cities and industry
    1. 2.1
      Growth and transformation: The United States in the Gilded Age
      Between the Civil War and the First World War, industry and cities grew at a tremendous pace in the United States.
      • Format: article
      • Relevant dates: 1865–1900
    2. 2.2
      Henry Grady and the "New South"
      Excerpt from a speech by Atlanta journalist and editor Henry Grady, praising the South's recovery from the Civil War, advocating industrial development, and inviting cooperation between North and South. Includes historical commentary.
      • Format: speech
      • Relevant dates: 1886
    3. 2.3
      Industrialization in North Carolina
      Industrialization needed five things -- capital, labor, raw materials, markets, and transportation -- and in the 1870s, North Carolina had all of them. This article explains the process of industrialization in North Carolina, with maps of factory and railroad growth.
      • Format: article
      • Relevant dates: 1870–1900
    4. 2.4
      The growth of cities
      Cities grew rapidly after the Civil War, in North Carolina as across the United States. But the great majority of North Carolina's population remained rural. This article includes maps and tables of census data.
      • Format: article
      • Relevant dates: 1860–1910
    5. 2.5
      Immigration in U.S. history
      Tens of millions of immigrants over four centuries have made the United States what it is today. They came to make new lives and livelihoods in the New World; their hard work benefited themselves and their new home country.
      • Format: article
      • Relevant dates: 1600–2008
    6. 2.6
      Railroads in Western North Carolina
      In the nineteenth century, Asheville, a crossroads for agriculture, became a destination for tourists, loggers, and miners. New railroads meet the needs of all these groups.
      • Format: article
      • Relevant dates: 0
    7. 2.7
      The Dukes of Durham
      After the Civil War, Orange County farmer Washington Duke put everything he had into growing tobacco. From farming he quickly expanded into manufacturing, and by the end of the nineteenth century, his son controlled the largest tobacco industry in the world.
      • Format: article
      • Relevant dates: 1842–1911
    8. 2.8
      The tobacco industry and Winston-Salem
      Tobacco was one of two industries that changed Winston-Salem and Forsyth County in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
      • Format: article
      • Relevant dates: 1870–1920
    9. 2.9
      The textile industry and Winston-Salem
      Textiles were one of two industries that changed Winston-Salem and Forsyth County in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
      • Format: article
      • Relevant dates: 1837–1940
    10. 2.10
      Small-town businesses, 1903
      Excerpts from The North Carolina Year Book and Business Directory, 1903, for the towns of Jefferson and Washington. Includes historical commentary.
      • Format: book (excerpt)
      • Relevant dates: 1903
    11. 2.11
      New machine shop in Plymouth, N.C.
      Broadside advertisement for a machine shop opening in Plymouth, North Carolina, in 1880. Includes historical commentary.
      • Format: advertisement
      • Relevant dates: 1880–1890
    12. 2.12
      The Belk brothers' department stores
      When Henry and John Belk opened their first department store in Charlotte in 1895, the idea of buying everything under one roof -- and always for cash, not store credit -- was new to consumers. This excerpt from the history of Belk, Inc., tells the story of Henry Belk, his first store in Monroe, and the Belk Bros. stores in downtown Charlotte.
      • Format: book (excerpt)
      • Relevant dates: 1888–1910
  3. 3 Factories and mill villages
    1. 3.1
      Work in a textile mill
      Article describes the various kinds of work in a textile mill, the experiences of millhands in and out of the mills, and what various workers earned.
      • Format: article
      • Relevant dates: 1870–1930
    2. 3.2
      Working in a tobacco factory
      Newspaper interview with a woman who worked for the Duke tobacco company rolling cigarettes in the 1880s. Includes historical commentary.
      • Format: newspaper (excerpt)
      • Relevant dates: 1880–1890
    3. 3.3
      Life in the mill villages
      By 1900, more than nine-tenths of textile workers lived in villages owned by the companies that employed them. Mill villages included stores, churches, and schools, but workers found ways to avoid too much dependence on their employers.
      • Format: article
      • Relevant dates: 1870–1930
    4. 3.4
      Mill villages
      Excerpt from D. A. Tompkins' 1899 textbook for cotton mill owners, explaining rationale and design for millworkers' housing. Includes photographs, plans, and historical commentary.
      • Format: book
      • Relevant dates: 1880–1920
    5. 3.5
      Mill village and factory: Voices
      Excerpts of oral history interviews with men and women who lived in mill villages and worked in textile mills in the early twentieth century.
      • Format: interview
      • Relevant dates: 1890–1920
    6. 3.6
      Inventions in the tobacco industry
      Several inventions made the tobacco industry so highly profitable in the late nineteenth century, including machines for tying strings on bags and for rolling cigarettes.
      • Format: bibliography
      • Relevant dates: 1865–1890
    7. 3.7
      The Bonsack machine and labor unrest
      When the Duke tobacco company adopted the Bonsack machine for rolling cigarettes, workers who had rolled cigarettes by hand were thrown out of work, and their replacements made less money.
      • Format: article
      • Relevant dates: 1880–1890
    8. 3.8
      Workers' pay and the cost of living
      In this activity, students examine census records of North Carolina tobacco mills and retail prices of food to determine how much money factory workers made in "real dollars."
      • Format: activity
      • Relevant dates: 1865–1880
    9. 3.9
      The rise of labor unions
      Little of the wealth that industry produced went to workers, and improvements in technology further reduced wages without making work any easier or less dangerous. In the late ninenteenth century, workers began to organize to demand higher wages and better working conditions.
      • Format: article
      • Relevant dates: 1870–1900
    10. 3.10
      The Knights of Labor
      Excerpt from the 1878 Platform of the Knights of Labor, an early labor union. Includes historical commentary.
      • Format: declaration
      • Relevant dates: 1870–1890
    11. 3.11
      Opposition to the Knights of Labor
      Editorial in a Durham newspaper, 1887, expressing concern about the Knights of Labor. Includes historical commentary.
      • Format: newspaper (excerpt)
      • Relevant dates: 1887
    12. 3.12
      Tobacco workers strike
      Magazine article describing an unsuccessful strike by tobacco mill workers in Durham, North Carolina, 1881.
      • Format: magazine
      • Relevant dates: 1881
  4. 4 Education and opportunity
    1. 4.1
      A timeline of North Carolina colleges and universities, 1865–1900
      Timeline of colleges and universities founded in North Carolina between the end of the Civil War and the turn of the twentieth century.
      • Format: timeline
      • Relevant dates: 1865–1900
    2. 4.2
      North Carolina State University
      North Carolina State University was founded in 1887 as the North Carolina College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts, a land-grant institution that would provide teaching, research and extension services to the people of the state. This article gives a brief history of the school from its founding to the present day.
      • Format: article
      • Relevant dates: 1887–2009
    3. 4.3
      A women's college
      The State Normal and Industrial School, founded in 1891, was the first public institution of higher education in North Carolina to admit women. It was established primarily to train teachers for the state's public schools. Today it is the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
      • Format: article
      • Relevant dates: 1889–1892
    4. 4.4
      Student life at the Normal and Industrial School
      Excerpt from the student handbook of the North Carolina State Normal and Industrial School, 1901. Includes historical commentary.
      • Format: book (excerpt)
      • Relevant dates: 1901–1902
    5. 4.5
      Wealth and education in North Carolina, 1900
      Report on the North Carolina Colored State Normal Schools for 1903, listing data on value of property owned by each race and on school size and attendance. Includes historical commentary.
      • Format: data set
      • Relevant dates: 1880–1910
    6. 4.6
      The Colored State Normal Schools
      Excerpt from the catalog of the North Carolina Colored State Normal Schools (now Winston-Salem State University, Fayetteville State University, and Elizabeth City State University), 1906. Includes historical commentary.
      • Format: book (excerpt)
      • Relevant dates: 1900–1920
    7. 4.7
      African American college students, 1906
      Records of pupils at the North Carolina Colored State Normal Schools (now Winston-Salem State University, Fayetteville State University, and Elizabeth City State University), 1906, with information about parents' occupations and how students paid their expenses. Includes historical commentary.
      • Format: book (excerpt)
      • Relevant dates: 1906
    8. 4.8
      The Biltmore Forest School
      The pioneering Biltmore Forest School emerged from George Vanderbilt's desire for scientific management of the forests around Biltmore Estate.
      • Format: article
      • Relevant dates: 1895–1913
    9. 4.9
      Athletics
      As the urban middle and working classes grew in the late nineteenth century, so did their desire for leisure activities. The result was a growth in sports and athletics. Includes early motion pictures of school athletics.
      • Format: article
      • Relevant dates: 1880–1910
  5. 5 Life in the Gilded Age
    1. 5.1
      Biltmore Estate
      George Washington Vanderbilt inherited a tremendous sum of money and used it to build a massive house and grounds near Asheville.
      • Format: article
      • Relevant dates: 0
    2. 5.2
      The Bouquet
      Story by Charles Waddell Chesnutt. Includes reading questions.
      • Format: story
      • Relevant dates: 1880–1920
    3. 5.3
      Southern women and the bicycle
      Editorial from the Charlotte Observer, 1895, on whether women in North Carolina were "ready" for bicycles. Includes historical commentary.
      • Format: newspaper
      • Relevant dates: 1895
    4. 5.4
      Bicycles: Scourge of the streets?
      Newspaper editorials about a collision between a bicylclist and a pedestrian in Wilmington, North Carolina, 1897. Includes historical commentary.
      • Format: newspaper (excerpt)
      • Relevant dates: 1890–1900
    5. 5.5
      The roller skate craze
      Early motion picture of people roller skating. Includes historical commetnary.
      • Format: article
      • Relevant dates: 1880–1910
    6. 5.6
      Advertising new products
      Advertisements from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries show new technologies, new tastes, and new ways of marketing goods to consumers.
      • Format: article
      • Relevant dates: 1880–1915
    7. 5.7
      Cities and public architecture
      In this activity, students compare photographs of public buildings in Charlotte before and after industrialization and the growth of the city in the late nineteenth century to learn about industrial wealth and the culture of the Gilded Age.
      • Format: article
      • Relevant dates: 1880–1900
    8. 5.8
      Sanitariums
      In the late nineteenth century, sanitariums were built to house patients with tuberculosis, which was the leading cause of death in the United States. Western North Carolina's climate made it the perfect location for sanitariums.
      • Format: article
      • Relevant dates: 1880–1920
    9. 5.9
      The growth of tourism: Warm Springs
      Advertisement for Warm Springs (now Hot Springs) in Madison County, North Carolina, from the late nineteenth century. Includes historical commentary about the region, tourism, and nineteenth-century medicine.
      • Format: pamphlet (excerpt)
      • Relevant dates: 1880–1890
    10. 5.10
      The growth of tourism: Southern Pines
      Report on a trip by doctors to Southern Pines, North Carolina, suggesting that its healthful climate made it an excellent destination for urban tourists and people recovering from illnesses. Includes historical commentary.
      • Format: article
      • Relevant dates: 1894
    11. 5.11
      Domestic work in the nineteenth century
      Videos of junior reenactors at Duke Homestead State Historic Site in Durham, North Carolina, show cooking indoors and outdoors and the work involved in doing laundry by hand.
      • Format: video
      • Relevant dates: 1870–1900
  6. 6 North Carolina in an American empire
    1. 6.1
      Expansion and empire, 1867–1914
      The United States expanded its economic influence and added overseas territory in the last decades of the nineteenth century, but the drive for empire was tempered by a strong anti-imperialist strain in American politics.
      • Format: article
      • Relevant dates: 1865–1910
    2. 6.2
      The Spanish-American War
      The Spanish-American War of 1898 ended Spain’s colonial empire in the Western Hemisphere and secured the position of the United States as a Pacific power.
      • Format: article
      • Relevant dates: 1898
    3. 6.3
      "The duty of colored citizens to their country"
      Sermon urging African Americans to support the war effort against Spain and to enroll in the U.S. army, thereby making a good statement for themselves and demonstrating their loyalty, even the face of continued suffering.
      • Format: speech
      • Relevant dates: 1898
    4. 6.4
      The Third North Carolina Regiment
      In the Spanish-American War, North Carolina raised an all-black regiment under black command. The soldiers faced racism and violence from whites both in and out of the military, and white Democrats campaigned against the regiment in 1898.
      • Format: article
      • Relevant dates: 1898–1899
    5. 6.5
      Ensign Worth Bagley
      Worth Bagley of Raleigh, North Carolina, was the only U.S. naval officer killed in the Spanish-American War.
      • Format: article
      • Relevant dates: 1898
  7. 7 Politics and populism
    1. 7.1
      The rise of Populism
      American farmers faced new economic difficulties after the Civil War. In response, they organized to promote cooperation and to defend their interests politically. In the 1890s, they joined with labor unions to create the People's (or Populist) Party.
      • Format: article
      • Relevant dates: 1865–1898
    2. 7.2
      Populists, fusionists, and white supremacists: North Carolina politics from Reconstruction to the Election of 1898
      After Reconstruction, Conservatives (later Democrats) reversed many of the gains Republicans had made while in power. In the 1890s, the new People's (or Populist) Party joined with Republicans in a "fusion" campaign that briefly won control of the state government.
      • Format: article
      • Relevant dates: 1870–1900
    3. 7.3
      Leonidas Polk and the Farmers' Alliance
      Speech given by Leonidas L. Polk before the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry, 1890. Polk provided data showing the decline in farmers' wealth since the Civil War, argued that this decline was not the farmers' fault, and asked the Senate to enact laws that would help farmers. Includes historical commentary and explanations of some of the economic principles discussed (including supply and demand).
      • Format: speech
      • Relevant dates: 1890
    4. 7.4
      Chatham County farmers protest
      Petition from the Chatham County Farmers Alliance to the North Carolina General Assembly, 1889, asking for legislation protecting the interests of farmers. Includes historical commentary.
      • Format: petition
      • Relevant dates: 1889
    5. 7.5
      Marion Butler and fusion politics
      After the death of Populist leader Leonidas LaFayette Polk in 1892, North Carolina Populists turned to Sampson County native Marion Butler to lead their party. Butler was instrumental in the "fusion" campaigns of the 1890s that joined the Populist and Republican tickets.
      • Format: biography
      • Relevant dates: 1863–1938
    6. 7.6
      George Henry White: A brief biographical sketch
      George Henry White represented North Carolina's "black second" district in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1897 to 1901. He was the last African American to serve in Congress for three decades.
      • Format: biography
      • Relevant dates: 1873–1918
  8. 8 1898 and white supremacy
    1. 8.1
      The Wilmington Record editorial
      Editorial by Alex Manly in the Wilmington (North Carolina) Record, an African American newspaper, 1898, that fueled the white anger against blacks that led to the Wilmington Race Riot. Includes historical commentary.
      • Format: newspaper (excerpt)
      • Relevant dates: 1898
    2. 8.2
      The Democrats appeal to voters
      Address from the North Carolina state Democratic Party chairman in the Raleigh News and Observer before the 1898 election, appealing to white voters to "redeem the state." Includes historical commentary.
      • Format: newspaper (excerpt)
      • Relevant dates: 1898
    3. 8.3
      The Wilmington Race Riot
      In November 1898, on the heels of the state Democratic Party's white supremacy campaign, violence broke out in Wilmington. A white mob burned the offices of a black newspaper and killed at least twenty-five African Americans.
      • Format: article
      • Relevant dates: 1898
    4. 8.4
      The "Revolutionary Mayor" of Wilmington
      Account of the Wilmington Race Riot by Alfred Waddell, who had led the violence. Waddell blamed the violence on blacks and Wilmington's white Fusionist leaders, and he claimed that he had been legally elected mayor of Wilmington. Includes historical commentary.
      • Format:
      • Relevant dates: 1898
    5. 8.5
      Letter from an African American citizen of Wilmington to the President
      Letter to President William McKinley, describing the Wilmington Race Riot and asking him to intervene and "send relief." Includes historical commentary.
      • Format: letter
      • Relevant dates: 1898
    6. 8.6
      J. Allen Kirk on the Wilmington Race Riot
      Account of the Wilmington Race Riot by the Rev. Dr. J. Allen Kirk, pastor of the Central Baptist Church. Kirk and his family hid in a graveyard from the white mob, then fled the city. Primary source includes historical commentary.
      • Format: pamphlet
      • Relevant dates: 1898
    7. 8.7
      The Suffrage Amendment
      Amendment to the North Carolina state constitution, passed 1899, adding a literacy test and a poll tax requirement for voting but a "grandfather clause" that allowed the requirements to be used specifically to disfranchise blacks. Includes historical commentary.
      • Format: constitution
      • Relevant dates: 1898–1900
    8. 8.8
      Voter registration cards
      Copy of a 1902 voter registration card issued in accordance with the "suffrage amendment" of 1899. Includes historical commentary.
      • Format: activity
      • Relevant dates: 1902
    9. 8.9
      Governor Aycock on "the negro problem"
      Speech by North Carolina Governor Charles Brantley Aycock, 1903, in which Aycock proclaims both the absolute supremacy of the white race and the importance of education for all citizens. Includes historical commentary.
      • Format: speech
      • Relevant dates: 1900–1905
  1. Appendix A. Political Parties in the United States, 1870–1900
  2. Appendix B. North Carolina Governors, 1877-1901
  3. Appendix C. Reading Primary Sources: An Introduction for Students
  4. Glossary
  5. Index