"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 1849, legislation created The North Carolina Railroad – at least on paper. But before tracks could actually be laid, someone had to decide exactly where the line would run. Some of those decisions were driven by engineering considerations. Some decisions were shaped by demographics. And some decisions – we should not be surprised – were influenced by the voices of those with money and power.
From today's perspective, nothing in the history of transportation seems more benign than the horse trolley, a phenomenon that flourished only briefly in the last decades of the 1800s. But these crude people-movers were the vanguard of a transportation revolution that would fundamentally change our concept of the city.
As the balance of political power in 1830s North Carolina shifted from the conservative Democratic Party to the progressive Whig party, it became apparent that after years of debate, North Carolina's first railroads would be built. Left to be decided was where those rail lines would lie on the land and who would build them.
In the late 1820s and early 1830s, there was great public excitement about the prospect of building North Carolina's first railroads. Our state was one of the first to show interest in the new technology. But powerful conservative voices resisted the intrusion of this modern contraption into a hallowed economic and social order. It would be a decade before North Carolina had an operational railroad.
At the dawn of the age of railroads in the United States, one North Carolina visionary proposed we stride boldly into the new age by building a rail line across the entire state. Instead, two cities built modest experimental railroads as baby steps to test the utility and appeal of the new technology.