The North Carolina Atlas: Portrait for a New Century / Edition 1

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As North Carolina enters a new century, perhaps no southern state faces a more intriguing combination of challenges and opportunities. Changes in the state's economy, shifts in its population, and a widening breach between urban and rural areas are just some of the forces that are reshaping North Carolina at this pivotal time in its history.

The North Carolina Atlas will be an invaluable aid in any effort to better comprehend the past, present, and future of our changing state. Using text and more than three hundred maps, charts, and photographs, the book offers an in-depth yet accessible look at the state's physical environment, history, population, and economy as well as such other aspects of life as government, politics, education, health, culture, and outdoor recreation. Tracing the shifts and patterns that have made North Carolina what it is today, the book also forecasts where these and other trends are taking us in this new century.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Every home and office should have The North Carolina Atlas at hand.

William Friday

An absolutely essential reference work for the new millennium.

George E. Stuart, former Vice President for Research and Exploration, National Geographic Society

The atlas may be read as an introduction to the state or used as a reference work.


Unquestionably the book is a valuable reference source.

Our State

Nowhere else can you find a single volume that tells so much about this place.

Business North Carolina

Charlotte Observer
An excellent and very useful book. Anybody who wants to understand North Carolina ought to own the 2000 Atlas. . . . Pick any important North Carolina topic. Bank of America or First Union or William Friday or Hog Farming or Davidson College, for instance. The 2000 Atlas has something important about all of these topics. . . . A great achievement and an essential reference book. Doug Orr and Al Stuart and their colleagues deserve the reward of heroes for sticking to the monumental task of pushing this work to publication.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807825075
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
  • Publication date: 3/27/2000
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 480
  • Sales rank: 1,472,484
  • Product dimensions: 11.36 (w) x 8.82 (h) x 1.57 (d)

Meet the Author

Douglas M. Orr Jr. is president of Warren Wilson College in Asheville. Together with James W. Clay and Alfred W. Stuart, they are the editors of North Carolina Atlas: Portrait of a Changing Southern State, which The University of North Carolina Press published in 1975.

Alfred W. Stuart is professor of geography at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Together with James W. Clay and Douglas M. Orr Jr., they are the editors of North Carolina Atlas: Portrait of a Changing Southern State, which The University of North Carolina Press published in 1975. the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

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Read an Excerpt

From Chapter 1: Introduction
No state is more difficult to understand--to arrive at the essence of how it got to be what it is--because it is vastly different not only from states in other regions but from other Southern states as well.--John Herbers, The New Heartland

The forces of change, ushering in a new post-industrial age, are coming at a whirlwind pace to North Carolina, and include the dynamics of globalization, information technology and population shifts on an unprecedented scale.--Paul Hawken, author and sustainable development advocate

As North Carolina comes to the confluence of two centuries, perhaps no southern state presents a more intriguing combination of challenges and opportunities. In many respects, North Carolina is a typical southern state, with an agrarian past, a legacy of slaveholding, and the experience of Confederacy and the long, painful Reconstruction. Many contemporary challenges derive from that regional context, such as rural poverty, inadequate health care delivery, great disparities in public education, and inequality of opportunity for peoples of different backgrounds.

Yet North Carolina is unique in ways that set it apart from its southern setting and presents reoccurring paradoxes: one of the nation's most industrialized states, it also has one of the nation's largest farm populations; home of one of the oldest and most distinguished systems of higher education, it has a public school system that lags well behind national standards; the high-technology complex of the Research Triangle area and Charlotte's rise to national prominence as a banking center have led those parts of the state to a prosperity that compares favorably with any metropolitan area in the country, whereas other counties, left out of the late-twentieth-century boom, are mired in grinding rural poverty; long a one-party state, current political voting behaviors contradict and defy prediction. Given these paradoxes, one challenge is simply that of understanding the state as we enter the new century. This search for understanding is critical if North Carolina is to realize the potential in its abundant human and natural resources.

Among the early colonies, North Carolina was settled relatively late. Shielded by a string of barrier islands and lacking the good natural harbors of neighboring states, early footholds were difficult and required European settlers to make inroads through long wagon road tracks from Pennsylvania and the Chesapeake Bay to the north and Charleston to the south.

This belated settlement and early physical--as well as psychological--isolation from the rest of the country was an ongoing pattern. Indeed, North Carolina remained so remote and uninvolved with the outside that, at one point in the early nineteenth century, it became known as the "Rip van Winkle State." This stubborn streak of independence has been evidenced in many ways. The first formal sanction of independence from England by any American colony occurred in North Carolina, but then the colony steadfastly refused to join the new Union until the Constitution had a Bill of Rights. Later, secession from the Union was strongly resisted, and the state was the last to join the Confederacy in 1861. North Carolina became the last state to allow the governor veto power in 1996.

The state's physical diversity is usually expressed in four physiographic regions: the Tidewater (or Outer Coastal Plain), Inner Coastal Plain, Piedmont, and Mountains (Fig. 1.1). (These physiographic boundaries follow a path that crosses county lines; however, for displaying data by county throughout the Atlas, the boundaries are adjusted to conform to county lines.) But the differences are much more than merely physical. As early settlers funneled into each area by different routes and from different sources, human variances began to match the diversities in the physical landscape. Each region developed its own human imprint, socially, economically, politically, and culturally.

One of the most lasting legacies of the settlement pattern in North Carolina was that the population was highly dispersed. When industry finally did come to the state, principally through the textile mill campaigns of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the mills were scattered among the small agricultural market towns and rural crossroads, thereby reinforcing a dispersed population pattern that is unique in the nation as well as in the South.

It was particularly this pattern of dispersed population that John Herbers was referring to in the quotation that begins this chapter. According to Herbers, North Carolina is perhaps a prototype state for the twenty-first century, with its few large cities and dispersed population and industry. North Carolina is the eighth largest manufacturing state in the United States, yet only a bare majority of its citizenry lives in an urban place. Charlotte, the largest city, had a population of over 500,000 by the end of the 1990s, giving North Carolina the distinction among all of the fifty states of having one of the smallest percentages of the state's total population residing in its largest city. This phenomenon has been described as North Carolina's "urban paradox."

The dispersion of job-producing industries traditionally has given millions of North Carolinians the option of maintaining a rural, small-town lifestyle while having access to an industrial job and urban services. Rural values and perspectives persist despite heavy industrialization. However, dispersion also has perpetuated lower incomes, higher infant mortality, and other social problems in the widening gap between urban and rural areas.

In the last thirty or so years, broad shifts in regional, national, and global economies have had profound effects on North Carolina's demographic and economic patterns. First among the changes was the growth and restructuring of the economy of the South that occurred after World War II. Until the late 1950s, farming was the leading employment sector in the region. It has continued to lose jobs while manufacturing, trade, and services, most notably, have grown rapidly. By the late 1970s, farming had fallen to last place among the major sectors, and the larger sectors each employed five or six times as many workers as did agriculture.

Following trends in the South, North Carolina farm employment fell from 26 percent of the total in 1960 to only 2 percent by the end of the century. Manufacturing, which developed earlier in North Carolina than in most of the South, stood at 30 percent of the total in 1970 and, despite adding over 119,000 jobs, it fell to under 21 percent in the late 1990s. This happened because the nonindustrial sectors of the economy grew even more rapidly. The services sector expanded fourfold, and both trade and finance tripled. Most of this high growth was urban based, bypassing most of the more rural parts of the state.

Manufacturing grew strongly in both urban and rural areas through the early 1970s, reducing rural-urban disparities, but the rural part began to either decline or slow in its growth by the 1980s. With the internationalization of the economy, major transnational corporations moved aggressively to lower production costs by placing facilities in countries that offered the most comparative advantages. Imports from these and other offshore producers took markets away from domestic companies, especially the labor-intensive industries that tended to predominate in rural North Carolina.

Meanwhile, a third trend, the emergence of the information-processing economy, resulted in the growth of high-tech industry and office clusters in and around major metropolitan centers. The larger urban areas, in North Carolina and elsewhere, experienced boom conditions whereas economic growth stagnated in rural areas, a phenomenon that has been referred to as "Shadows in the Sunbelt."

Population change tends to follow economic change. For decades southerners had been leaving the region to seek greater opportunity elsewhere. This tendency began to reverse in the 1960s, and during the 1970s about 3.5 million more people moved into the region than left it. North Carolina experienced its first net in-migration (278,000) of the twentieth century in the 1970s and added another 792,000 between 1980 and 1998. Most of the recent immigrants settled in metropolitan areas, a trend that coincided with the growth of urban-oriented jobs. Conversely, a number of rural countries experienced net out-migration, particularly among younger adults.

So it is clear that regional, national, and global economic change is dramatically impacting the traditional pattern of population dispersion. As we begin a new century and millennium, North Carolina is in a historic period of transition. A systematic analysis of the present state of the state is a necessary first step to meeting the future in a rational and informed manner. Taking stock in this way can provide a challenge to outmoded perceptions that are a poor, even dangerous, basis for future public policy decisions.

Long known as a strongly rural, small-town state, North Carolina is becoming increasingly urbanized with an economy that is more likely to be housed in an office tower than in a textile mill or on a farm. State policy struggles to divide attention between protracted rural issues and mounting urban concerns. What are the implications of these economic and other changes for the transportation network, educational programming, environmental protection, economic vitality, health care, and overall quality of life for all North Carolinians? These implications must be considered in the light of reality, not outdated perceptions. After all, the state motto is Esse Quam Videri, "to be, rather than to seem."

That is the rationale for this book: to present a critical analysis of the changing spatial order of a state at a pivotal time in its history. In that sense, the book is a work of geography, the social science that derives much of its subject matter from other social and physical sciences but which is, above all, focused on the issue of location as a primary consideration.

Emphasizing the geographic, or spatial, aspect of change requires first an explanation of the context in which change occurs. Thus, the first section of this book displays the physical environment, the stage on which the human story of North Carolina has been acted out. The next group of chapters deals with the overarching topics of history, population, and urbanization. History is the story of the evolution of the state out of its early past. In many ways, the numbers and patterns analyzed in the population and urbanization chapters are both symptoms and a measure of many of the changes that are sweeping the state. The nature and extent of population growth and the organization of it into a peculiarly North Carolina pattern is driven by the state's economy, the subject matter of another section. The sinews of farming, manufacturing, transportation, and trade are displayed in a succession of chapters that show both how and why so much change is reshaping the geography of North Carolina.

The final section of this book portrays other aspects of life that also are both symptom and cause. Crime and impacts on both air and water quality are clearly symptoms of growth, and they present major concerns that must be addressed if the state's economic progress is not to be threatened. Government, politics, education, and health care are not only themselves affected by change, but in many cases they are where efforts to manage change are focused. In addition, they, along with the cultural arts and outdoor recreation assets, are parts of the quality of life that has long been appreciated by North Carolinians and need to be maintained. A last, retrospective chapter seeks to tie together the various threads that are found in all of the preceding chapters of the book and to consider their implications for the future of North Carolina as it stands on the threshold of the twenty-first century.

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Table of Contents

Foreword by James B. Hunt Jr.
1. Introduction
2. The Natural Environment

Land Regions and Geology
Andy R. Bobyarchick and John A. Diemer
Weather and Climate
Peter J. Robinson
James W. Clay
Donald Steila

3. History
David R. Goldfield
4. Population
Sallie M. Ives and Alfred W. Stuart
5. Urbanization
Gerald L. Ingalls
6. The Economy
Harrison S. Campbell
7. Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing, and Mining

Tom Ross and Robert Reiman
Forest Resources
Tom Ross and Robert Reiman
The Fishing Industry
Tom Ross and Robert Reiman
Mining Industries
John F. Bender
Tom Ross and Robert Reiman

8. Manufacturing
Alfred W. Stuart
9. Transportation and Utilities
David T. Hartgen and Wayne A. Walcott
10. Trade, Finance, and Tourism

Retail Trade
J. Dennis Lord
Wholesale Trade
J. Dennis Lord
J. Dennis Lord
Newspapers, Television, and Telephone Service
Alfred W. Stuart
Tourism and Travel
Larry D. Gustke

11. Government and Politics
Schley R. Lyons
12. Air Quality
Walter E. Martin
13. Water Resources
Randall D. Forsythe
14. Crime
Richard C. Lumb
15. Public Education
Rex Clay and H. William Heller
16. Higher Education
Roy Carroll
17. Health and Health Care
Gerald R. Pyle
18. Cultural Arts and Historic Preservation
Jack Claiborne
19. Outdoor Resources
Woodward S. Bousquet
20. Retrospect and Prospect
Douglas M. Orr Jr. and Alfred W. Stuart
Photograph Credits
AUTHOR BIOS: Douglas M. Orr Jr. is president of Warren Wilson College in Asheville. Alfred W. Stuart is professor of geography at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Together with James W. Clay, they are the editors of North Carolina Atlas: Portrait of a Changing Southern State, which the UNC Press published in 1975.
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