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Session 5: Social and Religious Movements in Antebellum North Carolina

The Rise of Evangelical Protestantism in Antebellum North Carolina

By Diana Bell-Kite, Associate Curator of History, North Carolina Museum of History

By the early nineteenth century, major religious change was afoot in North Carolina. Energized by charismatic itinerant preachers, increasing numbers of North Carolinians were experiencing emotional religious transformations. Men and women disavowed their former selves, renouncing their past “wickedness” and devoting their lives to personal holiness. They gave up drinking, dancing, and gambling, and focused their energies on bringing their kinfolk and neighbors to the path of salvation. These North Carolinians, like many other Americans, fueled the powerful, growing development that was known as evangelical Protestantism.

This movement, which by the Civil War era would be nearly synonymous with southern religion, made its first inroads in the colony of North Carolina during the early eighteenth century. Though a variety of religious groups like Quakers, Presbyterians, and Baptists and even a few Jews and Catholics made North Carolina home, the Church of England was the established faith in the British colony of North Carolina. In the more populous regions, subjects even paid obligatory vestry taxes to support the local Anglican Church (Church of England). It was into this religious climate that George Whitefield, the first of many evangelical missionaries, arrived in 1739. Though he visited the most populous eastern cities that year, it was not until a few decades later that the movement took off. In the 1760s and 1770s, Baptist Shubal Stearnes, Presbyterian David Caldwell, and Methodist Devereaux Jarratt traveled through the colony, spreading their message of salvation achieved through a personal relationship with Christ. In clear contrast to the Anglican emphasis on ceremony and doctrine, the evangelicals primarily valued emotional, experiential religion. This increase in evangelical fervor—which spanned the colonies—became known as the “Great Awakening.” Though the Revolutionary War would interrupt the outpouring of such passion, a second such “awakening” would leave its mark on antebellum North Carolina.

Three main denominations subscribed to evangelical thought: Methodists, Baptists, and Presbyterians. Although each group differed somewhat in theology and practice, all emphasized the centrality of a “new birth” or dramatic conversion experience through which a person abandoned earthly sinfulness and started a new life in the community of believers. Only through this central experience, it was believed, could anyone reach heaven.

On the eve of the Revolutionary War, approximately 30 percent of southerners were evangelicals. By the time of the Civil War, evangelical Protestantism had become the mainstream faith of the region. In North Carolina, the pre-Revolutionary in-migration of thousands of non-Anglican Scots-Irish and Germans to the backcountry had contributed to this shift, creating a population ripe for the evangelical message. Furthermore, the successful Revolution had diminished the Anglican Church’s status as North Carolina’s established faith. By the early 1800s, the Second Great Awakening was in full swing: revivals were again widespread, and conversions occurred at a rapid pace. Methodists, for example, nearly doubled their membership between 1796 and 1807.

Annual camp meetings were often the highlight of the religious year. Families got away from their daily routines and visited, ate, and shared together at the campgrounds. Image courtesy of the North Carolina Office of Archives and History, Raleigh, NC.

The evangelical conviction—that each man and woman required a personal conversion in Christ—had a socially leveling effect on believers. Unsurprisingly, it proved especially appealing to the middling- and lower-class people of North Carolina’s backcountry. While evangelical fervor did little to convince the gentry class of the social equality of their less-prosperous brethren, the evangelicals began to see themselves as precious and valuable in the Lord’s eyes. This increased self-awareness went hand in hand with the expansion of white male suffrage during the Jacksonian era. Coupled with a more fluid social atmosphere and an increasingly mobile population, evangelicalism flourished.

Though conversion was a solitary experience that occurred within each individual’s heart, evangelicals were strongly devoted to the accomplishment of “good works” within their religious communities. One of the most emblematic practices was the camp meeting revival. At camp meetings, neighbors gathered from miles around to hear emotionally charged preaching—sometimes for days on end. These events brought together people of different social classes, including enslaved and free people of color, and often resulted in rapturous conversions. Evangelical communities also provided a sort of social control or discipline for those who had lapsed into sin. Swearing, lying, drinking, lasciviousness, and attending theater, circuses, or dances were all causes for repentance.

The family unit became the first-line defense against moral backsliding, and in this struggle women assumed a central role. Whereas in the eighteenth century men had been the undisputed religious leaders of the household, by the antebellum period, the idea that the woman was the moral center of the family was growing more common. Through church-inspired voluntary organizations, women collaborated with other women and participated in public life, and female church members usually outnumbered men. Evangelicals viewed a woman’s role as pivotal, since it was she who would educate a new generation of evangelicals to accept Christ into their hearts.

While the evangelical movement occurred in both the North and the South, by the eve of the Civil War, the issue of slavery had divided the major denominations. Some southern evangelicals had initially taken an antislavery stand. In the 1780s, Methodists threatened to excommunicate members who did not free their enslaved laborers. After an angry backlash, however, they quickly abandoned the decree. By the first decade of the nineteenth century, it became evident that, despite many arguments against slavery, the peculiar institution was firmly entrenched. Many white evangelicals owned or aspired to own people of color, and deeply rooted racism and insecurity deterred further questioning of the social order. Many believed it was their role to bring the saving power of Christ to any who would accept it, but not to change the existing hierarchy. As many northern evangelicals became involved in the abolition movement, southerners drifted away from social causes and concentrated singularly on saving souls.

Despite the unwillingness of white southern evangelicals to condemn slavery, North Carolinians of color flocked to evangelical religion, shaping the movement in their own unique ways. Many people of color—both free and enslaved—felt drawn to the underlying message of personal salvation through Christ. Regardless of white interpretations, they saw in the faith an important emphasis on freedom, hope, and the promise of a better life. People of color worshiped both with whites and, when circumstances allowed, in their own congregations. They integrated various customs—call-and-response worship, an understanding of the unity of sacred and secular in daily life, a deep respect for ancestors—that drew upon diverse African spiritual traditions. In this way, people of color participated in and at the same time reinvented evangelical Protestantism.

As evangelicals’ numbers grew, their movement began to infiltrate the upper echelons of society. Whereas the poor and struggling classes had been the first drawn to the promise of personal salvation, by the 1840s, prosperous North Carolinians were also joining the Baptists, Methodists, and Presbyterians. Combating notions that they were unlearned illiterates, evangelicals established their own publications and institutions of higher learning. Many North Carolina colleges and universities—Wake Forest for Baptists, Davidson for Presbyterians, Union Institute (later Trinity College and Duke University) for Methodists—opened during this period as training institutions for ministers. Women’s colleges also appeared, as did interdenominational Sunday schools and academies for children.

National divisions grew, and many white North Carolinians and other southerners began to view evangelicalism as synonymous with southernism. Similarly, they perceived themselves as more pious than their “secular” northern neighbors. Though this self-proclaimed devoutness did not lead to victory during the Civil War, it undoubtedly helped many white North Carolinians cope with defeat and the lasting scars of the conflict. Likewise, from their own expressions of evangelical Protestantism, people of color drew great strength—first, in establishing their own congregations and experiencing newfound freedom, and later in enduring the painful oppression of the Jim Crow era. By the mid-twentieth century, this southern brand of evangelicalism—which came into its own during the antebellum era—had become a national phenomenon. It continues to evolve and flourish still today.


Evangelicalism in Antebellum America
A lesson module from the City University of New York’s Investigating U.S. History website.

Excerpts from Guion Griffis Johnson’s Ante-Bellum North Carolina: A Social History
Chapter 12: “Religious Denominations”
Chapter 13: “Camp Meetings and Revival Movements”
Chapter 14: “Church Benevolence”
Chapter 15: “The Church and Social Control”

Dorothea Dix and Mental Health Reform

"Just One Lady--How Dorothea Dix Fought for One Antebellum Social Reform" By David L. Smiley, Reprinted from the Tar Heel Junior Historian 36:1 (fall 1996)


Dorothea Dix.
Image courtesy of the North Carolina Office of Archives and History, Raleigh, NC.




Dorothea Lynde Dix is one example of a woman who made up her mind to do something and fought all odds to do it. Born in present-day Maine (which was part of Massachusetts until 1820) in 1802, Dix was a schoolteacher at the age of fourteen. She also was an author of children’s hymns and moral tales. Not until March 1841 did Dix begin her now-famous campaign against the mistreatment of the “insane” in America.

Fighting society and the government

Society then believed that the insane were possessed by demons and had to be imprisoned. Prison keepers believed these persons felt no cold and disliked being clean. In March 1841, Dix was visiting a jail near Boston to teach a Sunday school class. She became dismayed at the sight of sick people who had committed no crimes being kept in a room without comforts or cleanliness. She found “Insane persons confined . . . in cages, closets, cellars, stalls, pens! Chained, naked, beaten with rods, and lashed into obedience!” She resolved to do something to help them.

Her fight was not easy. At that time, women were still not allowed to vote. In fact, it was considered improper for a woman even to speak in public forums or to explore any kind of interest outside her home and household duties. Those attitudes did not stop Dix.

She reported her findings to the Massachusetts state legislature in 1843. Dix displayed masterful tact and understanding as she began her efforts to make a change. Working through cooperative and influential men, she petitioned the legislatures of state after state for funds and officials to care for the insane. In each state, her method was the same: a careful study of actual conditions, a memorial that factually described these conditions, and an appeal for public assistance to the unfortunates. By 1845 she had helped to expand three asylums and to start three others.

A different approach for North Carolina

Dorothea Dix was weak and often ill, conditions that were not improved during her frequent travels by carriage and coach. In her notes, as she came to North Carolina from Tennessee in 1848, she reported that she “encountered nothing so dangerous as the river fords,” stream crossings where no bridges had been built or ferries installed. Upon her arrival in Raleigh, she tried a different method to gain support. In doing so, she presented one of the most magnificent statements in American social and legislative history, her Memorial Soliciting a State Hospital for the Protection and Cure of the Insane.

Dix declared that the mentally ill were unable to speak for themselves. She asked the General Assembly to look through her to see the “poor, crazed beings who pine in the cells, and stalls, and cages, and waste rooms of your poor-houses.” She continued by relating stories about different faces of madness—random acts of violence, domestic murders, and abuse—that she had seen as she journeyed across the state. She still maintained that patients needed humane care. But in this proposal she focused more on alerting the public about some of the dangers in allowing mentally ill patients to live among the general population without treatment. She then recommended institutional care as soon as possible to treat patients and return them to society.

Dix petitioned for the construction of a state hospital in North Carolina. The asylum was to be on a site of at least one hundred acres and was to have ready supplies of water, wood, and coal, abundant sunlight, and modern kitchens and laundries. Unfortunately, the price rose to $100,000—half of the state’s budget. Few legislators backed the expensive project, and it failed to be funded.

A surprising assist

An unexpected event enabled Dix to succeed in her Tar Heel mission. Louisa Dobbin, wife of state legislator James C. Dobbin, lay dying in the same hotel where Dix was staying. Dix spent hours with Mrs. Dobbin, talking with her and reading the Bible. Late one night, Mrs. Dobbin murmured, “I fear I am sinking rapidly.” She thanked Dix for her compassion and help and asked if she could return the favor.

“Tell your husband to sponsor my hospital bill,” Dix replied.

So it happened. When Dobbin returned to the legislature after his wife’s funeral, he spoke in support of the hospital. His speech, eloquent and emotional, is still remembered as one of North Carolina’s legendary orations. When its vote was taken, the bill was overwhelmingly approved.

Dix Hospital, Raleigh, labeled "Lunatic Asylum." Inset illustration in C. Drie, "Bird's eye view of the city of Raleigh, North Carolina 1872." Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.


Biography of Dorothea Dix
Webster University’s website Women’s Intellectual Contributions to the Study of Mind and Society provides biographical information about Dix.
A biography of Dorothea Dix from the Smithsonian Insitution that includes descriptions of Dix's personality as well as insight as to how she was regarded by her peers.

Excerpt from Guion Griffis Johnson’s Ante-Bellum North Carolina: A Social History
Chapter 23: “The Care of the Unfortunates”

Courtship and Marriage

By Emily Thomas, Former Assistant Curator of History, North Carolina Museum of History

North Carolina’s marriage and courtship practices during the antebellum period were much different from our contemporary dating and marriage patterns. Marriage was usually an economic proposition: it was not as much about love and romance as it was about property, wealth, and the continuation of the family name. Women looked upon the reciting of “I do’s” as their divine obligation to society and to God.

For a young southern woman, the courtship process was the proper avenue for choosing a future husband, and this practice was expected to begin at the close of adolescence. Parents were eager to marry off their daughters at a young age in order to prevent sexual immorality.

A prospective suitor first had to obtain permission from the head of the family before courting a young lady. The head, usually the father, would judge the man on his character and, most important, on his financial and social standing.

A father in antebellum North Carolina would have certainly not allowed his daughter to marry beneath her class. While this may seem callous and superficial to contemporary minds, the father was protecting his daughter from a life of poverty and destitution. A man was not looked upon as a possible suitor until he had built a strong financial foundation to adequately support a wife and family. As a result, the average age difference between married couples in the antebellum South was around six years

While vacationing at a summer resort in Nags Head in 1846, Dr. James Norcom, from Edenton, wrote his daughter a letter warning her against falling in love with a suitor who was beneath her social class:

"I, my dear, could never never ratify such an engagement were you to make it. Everything, therefore, in relation to this matter, must be conditional. It cannot be positive; for, however a meritorious man may be, and how high-soever he might be in my opinion or esteem, I could not sanction his connexion [sic] with a daughter of mine, in “the Holy Estate,” with the prospect of poverty and wretchedness before her."

Conversely, it was highly important for suitors that a woman possess property and money to be given in the form of a marriage dowry from her father. A man from Caswell, writing in the Raleigh Register on October 12, 1809, pointed out the importance of property to suitors:

"It is now become too much the fashion of the day that when a young man is about to get him a wife, the first inquiry he makes is, “Has such a young lady much property; how much land does she own and how many negroes?” If he is informed that she is rich but not pretty, he replies, “Let beauty be hanged; property is my object.”

The next step for a suitor was to call upon a young lady at her home. This stage of the budding relationship is similar to the modern practice of dating; however, in antebellum North Carolina, the process was much more structured. The couple would visit for a few hours in a parlor or on the front porch under the supervision of a trustworthy chaperone, such as an elderly relative or an enslaved person. Antebellum women were allowed to receive no more than two to three suitors during courtship. Popular courting activities outside the home included walking or riding through town and attending social functions such as barbecues, singing bees, or church services.

Young ladies also paraded the streets of town dressed in their finest clothing to take a glimpse at their suitors. According to a writer for the Western Carolinian who witnessed such an event on the streets of Salisbury, the women looked at the men “with a fixed and intent gaze,” but the writer states that he fended off these gazes by tilting his hat to one side.

Courting or engaged couples were not allowed to make any contact that might be construed as sexual. Overt actions were largely offensive to others and were avoided at all costs. Women used much guile to attract a husband, such as flirting or playing “hard to get.” However, a woman who entertained too many suitors or flirted too much was labeled a “coquette.”

Coquettes met their match in their male counterparts, known as “coxcombs”—men who entertained many women but never honored any of them with a marriage proposal. The brother of a southern antebellum lady (a coxcomb himself) warned his sister against his ilk in this letter from 1856:

"Tender words are but uncertain signs of a tender heart. Flirtation is not courtship. All men are villains. Keep very shady as to your own feelings. Always try to draw the enemy out first. Mention casually that pistol shooting is a gift of your family and that your grown-up brothers are all crack shots and single men."

It is important to note that formal courting was the accepted practice of the gentry and planter classes in the antebellum South. However, the middle and lower classes did not follow this tradition as closely. Such is this example from an Arkansas man who took out an advertisement in the local newspaper in order to find a wife:

"Any gal who got a bed, calico dress, coffee-pot and skillet, knows how to cut our britches, can make a hunting shirt, and knows how to take care of children can have my services till death parts both of us."

Following the courtship was the couple’s engagement. Our society’s current trend of long engagements was not the norm during antebellum times. Instead, engagements lasted for only two to three months in order to give the bride just enough time to prepare or make her wedding attire and accessories. Also, unlike modern tradition, no public announcement of the engagement through newspaper or social gathering was given. Brides-to-be in antebellum North Carolina did not wear a diamond ring but instead wore a simple gold band on the middle finger of the left hand.

The wedding ceremony was held in either the bride’s church or her home and was a very simple affair. The ceremony would be followed by parties or receptions for the couple. Depending upon the wealth of the couple, brides had one or more receptions that could last for one night or several days after the wedding to accommodate relatives traveling from afar.

Dr. James Norcom attended a relative’s wedding in 1818 and described the festivities that followed:

"We have all been eating and drinking in very considerable style here for 5 or 6 days past in consequence of Jas. Horniblow’s marriage to Miss Eliza Brewer on the 15th. . . . On the 17th I gave the wedding party a dinner and tea at my house and tomorrow we shall have the scene repeated at Mrs. Horniblow’s; a few days afterwards at Mrs. Blounts on the sound; and about the close of the week we shall wind up at Mr. Jas. Wills’. I shall be heartily glad when the giddy round is ended; for it is far from being agreeable to me, and keeps my family in great confusion."

The tradition of the white wedding dress came into fashion during the latter part of the antebellum period. Queen Victoria of England was married in 1840 in a white gown with orange blossoms, and the trend caught on following her marriage. Many antebellum brides wore their finest dresses to the ceremony because they could not afford to wear a wedding dress only once. Often these dresses were brown, pink, or pale blue. However, it was the custom for bridesmaids to wear white dresses.

1832 wedding gown worn by Anne Ruffin Cameron. Image courtesy of the North Carolina Museum of History.

The traditional honeymoon following the wedding was not taken by all couples in the antebellum period. Only the wealthy gentry and planter classes were able to afford wedding trips, and often the husband would conduct business while traveling with his new wife. Mary Norcott Bryan, a newly married woman from New Bern, took a two-month wedding trip with her husband, touring the southern cities of Mobile and Selma, Alabama, and New Orleans during the autumn of 1860.

Women in antebellum times saw marriage as the fulfillment of a divine law and a path they were destined to take. They were not seen as free citizens, for ownership was transferred from father to husband after the wedding ceremony. Divorce was rare. In Ante-Bellum North Carolina: A Social History, author Griffis Guion Johnson notes several causes of divorce: desertion to live with another, married while drunk, non-support and cruelty, and adultery.

Antebellum courtship and marriage patterns were indeed different from our contemporary notions of dating and marriage. Courtship formalities and boundaries placed on women are less obvious in our contemporary society, and women have greater control over their future, both socially and economically.


Excerpt from Guion Griffis Johnson’s Ante-Bellum North Carolina: A Social History
Chapter 7: “Courtship and Marriage Customs”

Courtship and Politics: Lincoln and Douglas as Suitors
An article from the Illinois Periodicals Online Project.

Slave Marriages
This web page from the Spartacus Educational website discusses marriage between enslaved people.

Antebellum Education

By Tricia Blakistone, Former Professinal Development Coordinator, North Carolina Museum of History

By the nineteenth century, North Carolina’s reputation as a state that was “behind the times” was augmented by its seeming lack of ability to establish a statewide system of public education. The idea that a system of public schools should be established had been around since the colonial era, but the American Revolution and the subsequent building of a new government and nation had obscured any real intention of North Carolina’s colonial forefathers to tackle the education issue. Throughout the antebellum period, debate raged over the importance of public education, as well as who was responsible for its establishment and funding—the city, the county, or the state.

Educational Opportunities before Public Schools

Front and back views of a gold medal awarded by the Richmond Euphradian Academy of Richmond County, North Carolina, to Jane Elizabeth Stanback in 1826. The inscription reads "Presented to Miss Jane E. Stanback for having completed a regular course of study in Literature, Music, Painting by Mrs. F. Bowen." Images courtesy of the North Carolina Museum of History.

However, for most North Carolinians who were simply trying to eke out a living, going to school was a luxury that would not put food on the table. In fact, many of North Carolina’s yeoman farmers and poor whites saw education as the exclusive domain of the wealthy classes, who possessed both the means and the time to pursue instruction in literature, the arts, mathematics, and science. North Carolinians worried that publicly funded schools amounted to charity. Thus, many poor North Carolinians did not want to be looked down upon for accepting handouts in the form of free education for their children. Additionally, both the rich and the poor worried how public education would be funded, and many people opposed any measure that would result in an increase in taxes.

Early Efforts to Establish Public Schools

The lack of interest in establishing public education as well as the fear of increased taxation contributed to the failure of several laws intended to secure public schools for white North Carolinians. However, a small group of men existed who thought public schools were necessary for the growth of North Carolina. Some of these men subscribed to the Jeffersonian belief that education was the key for the greater growth of the individual and that the state was honor bound to present the opportunity for betterment to its inhabitants. They argued that an educated man would be a better citizen because the ignorant were easily led astray and would be more susceptible to vices such as gambling and drunkenness. These men pointed out that North Carolina was held in low esteem by other states because of its uneducated residents.

In 1802 Calvin Jones presented a bill to the legislature to establish public schools. It was defeated upon its introduction. However, proponents of public education remained tenacious. A bill to establish public schools was introduced to the legislature every year between the defeat of Jones’s bill and the adoption of the Public School Law of 1839. Foremost among the friends of education was Archibald Murphey, a senator who represented Orange County. Murphey was already well-known for his fight to institute a series of internal improvements throughout the state. He endorsed the Jeffersonian belief that an educated populace would form the basis of a dynamic and successful government. Murphey designed a system of public schools in which every county in the state would have enough schools to meet its population’s educational needs.



Wooden slate.
Image courtesy of the North Carolina Museum of History.




In 1825 the Literary Fund was created by the legislature to establish and run public schools in selected counties once the fund was large enough. The fund grew slowly at first and was plagued by misappropriation and bad investments. However, public opinion was slowly turning in favor of education, and those men who had originally backed the movement persisted, never letting the legislature forget about the Literary Fund or the need for public education.

The movement for public schools received a major windfall when the U.S. Congress decided to distribute surplus revenue to the states based on their population size. Most of the money North Carolina received went to the Literary Fund. With enough money in hand to fund the establishment of some public schools, in 1839 the legislature approved a plan to provide schooling to all the state’s white inhabitants, modeled largely on Archibald Murphey’s 1817 education plan.

Public School Law of 1839

The Public School Law of 1839 broadly declared that counties would be given money to open schools that any white child could attend for free. However, the law lacked specifics, such as who was responsible for the operation of the schools, who would build the schools, and whether the schools would be required to report their progress to an oversight committee. Additionally, counties still opposed taxes to help support the schools. Thus, public schools were established in name but lacked the infrastructure to implement the lofty intentions of the law’s supporters.

Some counties were so large and their transportation networks so poor that many children could not get to distant schools. In addition, the schools were small (usually one room), drafty, and poorly constructed. Teachers’ pay was low, and so communities had trouble attracting qualified teachers. Children attended classes three to four months out of the year, usually during the slow parts of the agricultural season. They learned the basic subjects: reading, writing, arithmetic, and geography. Both boys and girls attended the same school, but some community members objected to coeducational schooling.

The apparent failure of the Public School Law of 1839 disturbed many of the proponents of public education. In 1853 Calvin H. Wiley, of Greensboro, introduced a bill in the state legislature to establish the position of superintendent of schools. After the bill was passed, Wiley was appointed to the position. Wiley is credited by many historians with saving the public school system in North Carolina. For the twelve years he served as superintendent, he instituted more efficient management and greater accountability and increased the number of schools in the state. By the early 1860s, North Carolina had made great strides in improving its public education system.

Education for People of Color

None of the efforts made in offering public education to the population of North Carolina extended to people of color. Before 1830 it was not illegal to educate a person of color, but few whites condoned this, believing that education could only lead to unruly behavior and feelings of entitlement.

Nat Turner’s slave revolt in Virginia in 1831 so frightened many white southerners that most states in the South passed a series of laws to limit what few freedoms people of color, both free and enslaved, possessed. North Carolina made it illegal to teach a person of color to read or write. If a person of color in the state knew how to read and write, it was usually because someone had secretly taught him or her to do so or because it was deemed necessary for that individual’s work.

Higher Education

The University of North Carolina, the state’s first university, was chartered by the legislature in 1789. It opened its doors in 1795 for the purpose of providing training to the state’s next generation of elite politicians and professionals in the sciences, philosophy, and religion. During the antebellum period, administrators expanded the university’s curriculum to include history, the law, the arts, and modern languages. Former North Carolina governor David L. Swain became the university’s president in 1835 and is credited with expanding its enrollment and emphasizing the need the need to train young men for public service.

Various religious denominations, including Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, and Lutherans, formed institutions of higher learning for men during the antebellum era in North Carolina. These schools included Wake Forest University (established in 1834), Davidson College (established in 1837), and Trinity College (established in1859), renamed Duke University in 1924. By 1860 North Carolina was home to sixteen colleges and universities.

A drawing of UNC’s first building by one of the university’s early students. Image courtesy of the Photographic Archives, North Carolina Collection at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.


Advertisements for Academies from North Carolina Newspapers, 1838–1840.
This web page contains the text of antebellum newspaper advertisements for boys’ and girls’ academies.

Anthology of Nineteenth-Century American Works for Children
A website offering transcriptions of works for American children, 1800–1872.

True and Candid Compositions: The Lives and Writings of Antebellum Students at the University of North Carolina
Selected writings by students at the University of North Carolina between 1795 and 1868 appear on the UNC web site Documenting the American South.

Timeline of North Carolina Colleges (1766–1861)
Useful timeline for higher education in the state.

Excerpts from Guion Griffis Johnson’s Ante-Bellum North Carolina: A Social History
Chapter 9: “Public Schools”
Chapter 10: “Private Schools and Colleges”
Chapter 11: “Educational Methods”

Assignment 5

Complete one of the following assignments:

The antebellum period in North Carolina was characterized by a variety of influential people and events. Explore three significant people or events not covered in this workshop by writing a few paragraphs on each person or event explaining their contributions to the state.

Option 2: (Choose this option if you are seeking technology credits.)*
Visit two web sites listed in this session and submit an evaluation based on the following:

  • What did you learn from visiting these websites? What questions did your visits provoke?
  • How applicable is the information to what you teach in the classroom? How might it better suit your needs?
  • How could you use these websites in your classroom?

Next, find two relevant websites not included in this session. Write an evaluation of these websites, addressing the following questions:

  • What did you learn from visiting these websites? What questions did your visits provoke?
  • How applicable is the information to what you teach in the classroom? How might it better suit your needs?
  • How could you use these websites in your classroom?

Option 3:
Based on what you have learned in this workshop, is the depiction of antebellum life in Gone with the Wind accurate? Why or why not? Your response should be at least one page in length. 

Submit your answers via e-mail to

* If you are interested in this option, we encourage you to contact your principal or LEA to receive prior approval. If questions arise, please contact Sally Bloom at 919-807-7965 or

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