Greensboro 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 2011 U.S. Census Estimate, Greensboro's population is 273,425.
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 (as was the spelling prior to 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.
Greensboro has grown to be part of a metropolitan area called the Triad, which encompasses three major cities (Greensboro, High Point, and Winston-Salem), as well as many medium sized and smaller communities. Greensboro evolved from a small center of government to an early 1900s textile and transportation hub. In 2004 the Department of Energy (DOE) awarded Greensboro with entry into the Clean Cities Hall of Fame.
The city 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 such heavy casualties on the British Army of General Charles Cornwallis that Cornwallis chose to pull his battered army out of North Carolina and into Virginia. This decision allowed a combined force of American and French troops to trap Cornwallis at Yorktown, Virginia, where the British were forced to surrender on October 19, 1781, after a 20-day siege, thus ending the military phase of the American Revolution. As such, Greene's successful efforts at weakening the British Army played a key role in securing America's victory over the British.
Greensboro was established near the geographic center of Guilford County, on land that was "an unbroken forest with thick undergrowth of huckleberry bushes, that bore a finely flavored fruit." Property for the future village was purchased for $98, and three north-south streets (Greene, Elm, Davie) were laid out intersecting with three east-west streets (Gaston, Market, Sycamore). The courthouse stood at the center of the intersection of Elm and Market streets. By 1821, the town was home to 369 residents.
In the early 1840s, Greensboro was selected by the state government at the request of then Governor Morehead (whose estate, Blandwood, is located in Greensboro) for inclusion on a new railroad line. The city grew substantially in size and soon became known as the "Gate City" due to its role as a transportation hub for the state. The railroads transported goods to and from textile mills, which grew up with their own mill villages around the city. Many of these businesses remained in the city until the 21st century, when most of them went bankrupt, reorganized, and/or merged with other companies. Greensboro remains as a major textile headquarters city with the main offices of International Textile Group (Cone, Burlington Industries), Galey & Lord, Unifi, and VF Corporation (Wrangler, Lee, The North Face, Nautica). The importance of rail traffic continues for the city, as Greensboro serves as a major regional freight hub, and four Amtrak passenger trains stop in Greensboro daily on the main Norfolk Southern line between Washington and New Orleans by way of Atlanta.
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, and 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. 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 Methodist Church by S. W. Faulk, several buildings designed by Frank A. Weston, and UNCG's Main Building 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 remain standing 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 to maintain a construction goal of 80 to 100 affordable housing units per year in order 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 both 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 within 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 and 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 still in their original location, now home to the International Civil Rights Center and Museum (though a section of the counter is also on display at the Smithsonian). The museum opened on February 1, 2010, the 50th anniversary of the sit-ins.
After the desegregation of Woolworth's and other minor concessions by Greensboro's white community, a brief period of patience and negotiation was followed by further protests in 1962 and 1963, culminating in the largest civil rights protest to take place in North Carolina history during May and June 1963. In addition to the desegregation of public accommodations, protestors sought economic and social justice, such as hiring policies based on merit and the integration of public schools. Marches of over 2,000 protesters per night took place in Greensboro's segregated central business district. William Thomas and A. Knighton Stanley, coordinators of Greensboro's local CORE chapter, invited Jesse Jackson, then a student at A&T to join the protests, and Jackson quickly rose to prominence as a student leader and public representative of the protest movement. To invoke arrest by violating segregation rules of local businesses, trespassing, and other non-violent breaches of the law, soon became a primary tactic of the protestors, especially among college and high school students. Seeking to overflow city jails and overburden municipal resources, at one point approximately 1,400 blacks occupied Greensboro's jails, which drew serious attention from both Greensboro's mayor and Governor of North Carolina Terry Sanford. 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 was beaten with sticks prior to 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.