Greensboro (formerly Greensborough) is a city in the U.S. state of North Carolina. It is the third-largest city by population in North Carolina and the largest city in Guilford County and the surrounding Piedmont Triad metropolitan region. According to the 2012 U.S. Census Estimate, Greensboro's population is 277,080. It is located at the intersection of three major interstate highways (Interstate 85, Interstate 40 and Interstate 73) in the Piedmont region of central North Carolina.
In 2003, the previous Greensboro – Winston-Salem – High Point metropolitan statistical area (MSA) was re-defined by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget, resulting in the formation of the Greensboro-High Point MSA and the Winston-Salem MSA. The 2010 population for the Greensboro-High Point MSA was 723,801. The Greensboro – Winston-Salem – High Point combined statistical area (CSA), popularly referred to as the Piedmont Triad, had a population of 1,599,477.
In 1808, Greensborough (the spelling before 1895) was planned around a central courthouse square to succeed the nearby town of Guilford Court House as the county seat. This act moved the county courts closer to the geographical center of the county, a location more easily reached by the majority of the county's citizens.
Quaker immigrant settlers from Pennsylvania, by way of Maryland, arrived at Capefair (now Greensboro) in about 1750 and began organized religious services affiliated with the Cane Creek Friends Meeting in Snow Camp in 1751. Three years later, 40 Quaker families were granted approval to establish New Garden Monthly Meeting. (The action is recorded in the minutes of the Perquimans and Little River Quarterly Meeting on May 25, 1754: "To Friends at New Garden in Capefair," signed by Joseph Ratliff.) The settlement grew rapidly during the next three years adding members from as far away as Nantucket Island in Massachusetts. It soon became the most important Quaker community in the North Carolina and mother of several other Quaker meetings that were established in the state and west of the Appalachians.
The city of Greensboro was named for Major General Nathanael Greene, commander of the American forces at the Battle of Guilford Court House on March 15, 1781. Although the Americans lost the battle, Greene's forces inflicted heavy casualties on the British Army of General Charles Cornwallis. After the battle, Cornwallis withdrew his troops to a British base in Wilmington, North Carolina.
Though the city developed slowly, early wealth generated from cotton trade and merchandising led to the construction of several notable buildings. The earliest, later named Blandwood Mansion and Gardens, was built in 1795. Additions to this residence in 1846 designed by Alexander Jackson Davis of New York City made the house an influential landmark in the nation as America's earliest Tuscan Villa. Other significant estates followed, including "Dunleith" designed by Samuel Sloan, Bellemeade, and the Bumpass-Troy House (now operating as an inn).
American Civil War and final days of the Confederacy
Although Guilford County did not vote for secession, once North Carolina joined the Confederacy some citizens joined the Confederate cause, forming such infantry units as the Guilford Grays. From 1861 to March 1865 the city was relatively untouched by the American Civil War, with the exception of dealing with shortages of clothing, medicines, and other items caused by the US naval blockade of the South. However, in the final weeks of the war, Greensboro played a significant role. In April 1865 General P.G.T. Beauregard was instructed by the commanding officer of the Army of Tennessee, General Joseph E. Johnston, to prepare for a defense of the city. During this time, Confederate President Jefferson Davis and the remaining members of the Confederate cabinet had evacuated the Confederate Capital in Richmond, Virginia, and moved south to Danville, Virginia.
When Union cavalry threatened Danville, Davis and his cabinet managed to escape by train and reassembled in Greensboro on April 11, 1865. While in Greensboro, Davis and his cabinet decided to try to escape overseas to avoid capture by the victorious Union forces; they left Greensboro and separated. As such, Greensboro is notable as the last place the entire Confederate government met as a group: Greensboro is thus the "final" capital city of the Confederacy.
At nearly the same time, Governor Zebulon B. Vance fled the capital of North Carolina in anticipation of the arrival of Union General William Tecumseh Sherman. For a brief period beginning April 16, 1865, the capital of North Carolina was maintained in Greensboro. Governor Vance proclaimed the North Carolina Surrender Declaration on April 28, 1865. Later, Vance turned himself over to Union officials in the parlor of Blandwood Mansion. In the words of historian Blackwell Robinson, "Greensboro witnessed not only the demise of the Confederacy but also that of the old civil government of the state" of North Carolina.
After the negotiations were completed at Bennett Place, now in present day Durham, North Carolina, between General Johnston and General Sherman on April 26, 1865, Confederate soldiers stacked their arms and received their paroles in Greensboro, and then headed for home.
Industrialization and growth
In the 1890s, the city continued to attract attention from northern industrialists, including Moses and Caesar Cone of Baltimore. The Cone brothers established large-scale textile plants, changing Greensboro from a village to a city within a decade. By 1900, Greensboro was considered a center of the Southern textile industry, with large scale factories producing denim, flannel, and overalls. Prosperity brought to the city through textiles resulted in the construction of notable twentieth century civic architecture, including the Guilford County Courthouse, West Market Street United Methodist Church by S. W. Faulk, several buildings designed by Frank A. Weston, and the Julius I. Foust Building of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro designed by Orlo Epps.
During the twentieth century, Greensboro continued to expand in wealth and population. Rapid growth led to construction of grand commercial and civic buildings, many of which stand today, designed by hometown architects Charles Hartmann and Harry Barton. Other notable industries became established in the city, including Vicks Chemical Co. (famous for over-the-counter cold remedies such as VapoRub and NyQuil), Carolina Steel Corporation, and Pomona Terra Cotta Works. During this period of growth, Greensboro experienced an acute housing shortage. Builders sought a construction goal of 80 to 100 affordable housing units per year to provide homes for workers. Greensboro's real estate was considered "the wonder of the state" during the 1920s. Growth continued through the Great Depression, as Greensboro added an estimated 200 new families per year to its population. The city earned a reputation as a well-planned community, with a strong emphasis on education, parks, and a profitable employment base.
Prosperity brought new levels of development involving nationally and internationally known architects. Walter Gropius designed a factory building in the city in 1944. Greensboro-based Ed Loewenstein contributed designs for projects throughout the region. Eduardo Catalano and George Matsumoto brought designs to the city that challenged North Carolinians with modernist architectural concepts and forms.
Civil rights movement
In 1960, the Census Bureau reported Greensboro's population as 74.0% white and 25.8% black. As Greensboro evolved into one of North Carolina's primary cities, changes began to occur in its traditional social structure. On February 1, 1960, four black college students from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College sat down at an all-white Woolworth's lunch counter, and refused to leave after they were denied service. The four students purchased small items in other parts of the store, kept their receipts, then sat down at the lunch counter and asked to be served. After being denied service, they produced their receipts and asked why their money was good everywhere else at the store but not at the lunch counter. Hundreds of others soon joined in this sit-in, which lasted several months. Such protests quickly spread across the South, ultimately leading to the desegregation of Woolworth's and other chains. The original lunch counter and stools where the four first sat are in their original location, now home to the International Civil Rights Center and Museum (though a section of the counter is on display at the Smithsonian). The museum opened on February 1, 2010, the 50th anniversary of the sit-ins.
In the end, the protests achieved gains toward racial equality in the form of further desegregation, reformed hiring policies in city government, and commitments to progress by Greensboro's mayor and Governor Sanford, who declared, "Anyone who hasn't received this message doesn't understand human nature." However, though these concessions helped build progressive momentum, significant change in race relations came about at a painfully slow pace, and verbal commitments from white leadership in 1963 proved to be more symbolic victories than substantial ones.
In May 1969, A&T was involved in a second incident when the students of James B. Dudley High School appealed to them when a popular candidate for student union class president was refused, allegedly due to his position with Youth for the Unity of Black Society. On May 21, after student protesters began throwing rocks and were confronted by police with tear gas canisters, an uprising led to gunfire exchanges between protesters, police and the National Guard. Escalating violence eventually led to the invasion of the A&T campus by what was described at the time as "the most massive armed assault ever made against an American university". The uprising ended soon after the National Guard made a sweep of A&T college dormitories, taking hundreds of students into protective custody. A report released by the North Carolina State Advisory Committee to the United States Commission on Civil Rights found the National Guard invasion reckless and disproportionate to the actual danger, and criticized local community leaders for failing to help the Dudley High School students when the issues first emerged. They declared it "a sad commentary that the only group in the community who would take the Dudley students seriously were the students at A&T State University."
In spite of this period of progress, old wounds had yet to heal and prejudices continued. On November 3, 1979, members of the Communist Workers Party (CWP) were holding an anti-Ku Klux Klan rally, when two cars containing KKK supporters drove into the Morningside Heights neighborhood where the rally was being held and opened fire on the protest. Four local TV news stations filmed the event as it happened. A pistol was fired by a CWP organizer (allegedly into the air) and the Klan cars were beaten with sticks before the shooting. Five of the anti-Klan demonstrators were killed and seven were wounded. Television footage of the event was shown nationwide and around the world, and the event became known as the Greensboro Massacre. In November 1980 six of the accused KKK supporters were all acquitted by an all-white jury after a week of deliberations. In 1985, a civil suit found five police officers and two other individuals liable for $350,000 in damages to be paid to the Greensboro Justice Fund.