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Princeville in Edgecombe County, North Carolina — The American South (South Atlantic)
 

Freedom Hill

 
 
Freedom Hill Marker image. Click for full size.
By Mike Stroud, 2011
1. Freedom Hill Marker
Inscription.
Community established
here by freed blacks
in 1865. Incorporated
as Princeville in 1885.

 
Erected 1988 by North Carolina Office of Archives & History. (Marker Number E-97.)
 
Location. 35° 53.413′ N, 77° 31.847′ W. Marker is in Princeville, North Carolina, in Edgecombe County. Marker is at the intersection of State Route 33 (Business U.S. 64) and Mutual Blvd (U.S. 258), on the right when traveling north on State Route 33. Click for map. Marker is in this post office area: Tarboro NC 27886, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Historic Princeville (approx. ¼ mile away); George H. White (approx. 0.4 miles away); St. Paul A.M.E. Zion Church (approx. half a mile away); W.L. Saunders (approx. half a mile away); W.D. Pender (approx. half a mile away); Henry T. Clark (approx. half a mile away); John C. Dancy (approx. half a mile away); Civil War Cemeteries (approx. 0.6 miles away).
 
Regarding Freedom Hill. At the close of the Civil War, Union troops occupied the Tarboro area. During those weeks many of the former slaves in Edgecombe and surrounding counties left their plantations and came to
Freedom Hill Marker image. Click for full size.
By Mike Stroud, July 18, 2011
2. Freedom Hill Marker
the Federals’ encampment seeking freedom and protection. The future faced by the mostly illiterate, unskilled, penniless freedmen was uncertain and bleak.


They congregated around the Union troops bivouacked on the south side of the Tar River below Tarboro. Although it was the soldiers’ policy to advise the emancipated slaves to return to the plantations and work for their old masters, a sizable number of the freedmen remained encamped at the site after the troops had departed. They called their new village Freedom Hill (sometimes known as Liberty Hill). They adopted the name from a nearby hill or knoll from which Northern soldiers had addressed the former slaves—telling them that the Union victory in the war had made them free men and women. The knoll where the soldiers made their speeches was on the west side of Old Sparta Road near what is now the area’s major traffic intersection. The circumstances regarding the assembly and name were later recalled by Dr. J. M. Baker who lived in Tarboro at the end of the war and often visited Freedom Hill.


The freedmen who remained encamped on the river soon erected crude shanties. White landowners made no effort to evict them from the land, it being so swampy as to be otherwise useless. In fact there is some evidence that the “squatters” were encouraged to remain at the site and thus keep their
Freedom Hill Marker, looking west along NC 33 at Mutual Blvd. US 258 image. Click for full size.
By Mike Stroud, July 18, 2011
3. Freedom Hill Marker, looking west along NC 33 at Mutual Blvd. US 258
distance from the white community in Tarboro. In the 1870s the land did change hands and blacks began acquiring lots. One of the buyers was Turner Prince (1843-1912), a carpenter for whom the community was renamed upon its incorporation.


The town’s economy improved in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries with a proliferation of black-owned businesses. The rise of white supremacy brought a serious threat to Princeville’s continued existence as a black town. Calls mounted for its dissolution, but the residents resisted. Today Princeville remains a cohesive black community with a heritage unique among North Carolina towns. Princeville has experienced repeated flooding, most notably by Hurricane Floyd in September 1999. Recovery efforts brought national attention to the town. At the close of the Civil War, Union troops occupied the Tarboro area. During those weeks many of the former slaves in Edgecombe and surrounding counties left their plantations and came to the Federals’ encampment seeking freedom and protection. The future faced by the mostly illiterate, unskilled, penniless freedmen was uncertain and bleak.


They congregated around the Union troops bivouacked on the south side of the Tar River below Tarboro. Although it was the soldiers’ policy to advise the emancipated slaves to return to the plantations and work for their old masters, a sizable number of the freedmen remained encamped at the site after the troops had departed. They called their new village Freedom Hill (sometimes known as Liberty Hill). They adopted the name from a nearby hill or knoll from which Northern soldiers had addressed the former slaves—telling them that the Union victory in the war had made them free men and women. The knoll where the soldiers made their speeches was on the west side of Old Sparta Road near what is now the area’s major traffic intersection. The circumstances regarding the assembly and name were later recalled by Dr. J. M. Baker who lived in Tarboro at the end of the war and often visited Freedom Hill.


The freedmen who remained encamped on the river soon erected crude shanties. White landowners made no effort to evict them from the land, it being so swampy as to be otherwise useless. In fact there is some evidence that the “squatters” were encouraged to remain at the site and thus keep their distance from the white community in Tarboro. In the 1870s the land did change hands and blacks began acquiring lots. One of the buyers was Turner Prince (1843-1912), a carpenter for whom the community was renamed upon its incorporation.


The town’s economy improved in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries with a proliferation of black-owned businesses. The rise of white supremacy brought a serious threat to Princeville’s continued existence as a black town. Calls mounted for its dissolution, but the residents resisted. Today Princeville remains a cohesive black community with a heritage unique among North Carolina towns. Princeville has experienced repeated flooding, most notably by Hurricane Floyd in September 1999. Recovery efforts brought national attention to the town.(North Carolina Office of Archives & History)
 
Categories. Notable Places
 
 
Credits. This page originally submitted on , by Mike Stroud of Bluffton, South Carolina. This page has been viewed 385 times since then and 5 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on , by Mike Stroud of Bluffton, South Carolina. • Craig Swain was the editor who published this page. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016.
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