Moving North Carolina
This blog offers a fresh perspective on North Carolina history, telling the panoramic story of our state as a tale of evolving transportation and increasing mobility. The blog is a companion to the public television documentary of the same name.
North Carolina transportation history – from ancient footpaths to superhighways – is a saga of vehicles and vessels; of animals and engines; of rivers, canals, rails and roads. But far deeper than that, it is a very human story. It is the story of the people who used those modes of transportation to arrive here, to populate the countryside, to prosper, and to coalesce into one special state. Moving North Carolina is the story of how we got here, why we live where we do, and what has been important to us. It is the story of who we are.
Moving North Carolina is a window through which you can view North Carolina history as you never have before.
Here's what you can do on this blog:
Click below on one of the most recent posts to read the full version of that story. (If you are new to the blog, you can start with the first blog to get an introduction.)
- Browse or search the entire collection on the Searchable Archive page.
- Peek behind the curtain on how the blog originated on the About The Blog page.
- Watch a preview of the Public Television documentary version of Moving North Carolina and purchase a DVD or Blu-ray disc on The Documentary page.
- Comment on any post (at the bottom of the post) or leave general feedback on the Comment page.
“The Negro Motorist Green Book” was an essential tool for the black motorist in the first half of the 20th century. In the American South, the early decades of motoring overlapped with the region’s most virulently racist “Jim Crow” era. Black motorists were confronted by challenges largely unknown to white travelers, and a slight misreading of the local racial norms could turn the most commonplace activity into one that brought down on them humiliation, brutality, or death. Many black motorists would not take to the roads without their copy of The Green Book; it was their bible for discovering safe places.
The roundabout – a type of traffic intersection where multiple roads converge, like the spokes on a wheel, onto a central hub – has been used around the world for centuries. But it is relatively new to North Carolina’s roads, and the roundabouts that are proliferating around our state seem to trigger acute anxiety in many drivers as they approach one. But with anxiety comes heightened awareness, and that is part of the secret behind roundabouts saving lives.
In 1950, Lee Petty showed up at a stock car event with his race car painted bright blue. The color would become known as “Petty Blue” and would become a signature look for generations of racing Pettys, including Richard and Kyle. In today’s world of intense branding, you would expect such a color to have been carefully designed and maybe even tested in focus groups before appearing in public. In truth, Petty Blue resulted from a random mix of paint remnants by a man who was just trying to help neighbor Lee Petty by making his Plymouth look better for an upcoming Saturday race.
Regulatory speed limits on public roads are not a modern phenomenon, much less a by-product of the automobile. Horses sped, too. But the early-1900s proliferation of autos on our roads – and the terror those noisy, lurching machines inflicted on the animals that had dominated the roads for 300 years – certainly brought a new sense of urgency to requiring people to refrain from “driving furiously.”
New stories are posted every other Sunday at noon. If you like what you see, please help spread the word.