"Carolina in my mind," sings James Taylor, a native son and one of the most popular vocalists in the state's history. What is the Carolina of which Taylor sings? How is the state defined demographically, socially, and economically? In this chapter, we explore these topics by examining contrasts and paradoxes that define the state, major features of the state's society and economy, and some forces shaping the state's future. Many components of the state's profile contribute to increased social and economic diversity, which create a context for North Carolina government and politics.
"Variety Vacationland!" is a phrase used by North Carolina's tourism industry to define the wide range of recreational and cultural opportunities available in the state. Mount Mitchell in western North Carolina, at 6,684 feet, is the highest peak in the state and in the United States east of the Mississippi River. It is located along the Blue Ridge Parkway in the Appalachian Range overlooking one of the state's greatest natural assets.
Cape Hatteras on the Outer Banks is the easternmost point in the southeastern United States on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean. The cape, which lures beachcombers and surf riders who enjoy a sea-level playground, provides a guiding beacon with its historic lighthouse for seafaring travelers and a gateway to the coastal plains region of North Carolina, the site of the first state capital ( New Bern).
From the mountains with their majestic heights to the ocean with its glistening shores, North Carolina offers great contrasts in terrain and ambience. Likewise, its social, economic, and political character presents much vari-