One of the original thirteen colonies, North Carolina began its existence as an immigrant society. After the United States became independent, it received few foreign immigrants until the 1960’s and 1970’s, when significant economic growth brought waves of new people looking for work. By the turn of the twenty-first century, the state had one of the nation’s fastest growing population of Latinos, a large but unknown number of whom were undocumented laborers.
The non-Native American population of early colonial North Carolina was necessarily a product of immigration, not all of it foreign. Many of North Carolina’s earliest settlers came from other colonies, such as Virginia, Maryland, South Carolina and Pennsylvania. Indeed, the first permanent white settlers came to Albemarle Sound from Virginia during the 1650’s. Mostly of English extraction, they numbered several hundred farmers and traders. North Carolina’s first significant conflict with Native Americans, the Tuscarora War of 1711, was in part sparked by the settlement of
The colony’s growing population was quite diverse. In addition to settlers of English ancestry, Scottish, Irish, Welsh, French, German, and Swiss settlers were well represented. Black
North Carolina had the distinction of attracting more
Westward expansion into North Carolina’s Piedmont region was similarly diverse. While the first settlers there were English colonists from the coast, they were soon joined by others–including the stream of Germans and
Because of a slow-down in immigration and a significant degree of out-migration during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, several attempts to attract immigrants to North Carolina were concocted. These began during the post-Civil War era under the auspices of the state Department of Agriculture, Immigration, and Statistics and its subordinate organization, the North Carolina Bureau of Immigration. The bureau’s successes were mostly modest; they included the settlement of sixty-nine immigrants described as “German Polanders” in Salisbury in 1881. Private citizens also attempted to attract foreign labor and capital to the state through colonization schemes. The most famous of these, Wilmington entrepreneur
North Carolina had little significant immigration until the 1960’s and 1970’s, when economic growth and the end of racial segregation in public accommodations encouraged people from out of state and overseas to enter the state. Most of the population growth since that period has been centered in the state’s major urban regions–the so-called Research Triangle that encompasses the major university towns of Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill; the Piedmont Triad of Winston-Salem, Greensboro, and High Point; and Asheville and Wilmington. Many immigrants from around the world have settled in these areas in search of economic opportunities and education, bringing a degree of cultural diversity unprecedented in North Carolina history.
During the 1970’s and 1980’s many
The 1960’s also saw the immigration of people from other parts of Asia into North Carolina. Many are involved in business, education, research and other middle-class pursuits, and most live in the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill Triangle. By 2000, roughly 26,000 Asian Indians, 19,000 Chinese, 15,000 Vietnamese, 12,000 Koreans, and 9,000 Filipinos resided in the state.
The single largest-growing immigrant group in North Carolina, however, has been
Latinos have been especially attracted to the construction industry in North Carolina, in which they made up about 29 percent of the labor force during the early twenty-first century. They have also been heavily employed in North Carolina’s agricultural and agricultural processing sectors, in which they have rapidly displaced African American workers. About one-third of the nation’s documented guest workers labor on farms in North Carolina. However, a large but unknown number of Latino workers are undocumented.
Blethen, H. Tyler, and Curtin W. Wood, Jr. From Ulster to Carolina: The Migration of the Scotch-Irish to Southwestern North Carolina. Raleigh: North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources, Division of Archives and History, 1998. Haines, David W., ed. Refugees as Immigrants: Cambodians, Laotians, and Vietnamese in America. Totowa, N.J.: Rowman & Littlefield, 1989. Nazario, Sonia. Enrique’s Journey. New York: Random House, 2006. Sherman, Spencer. “The Hmong in America: Laotian Refugees in the Land of the Giants.” National Geographic (October, 1988).