Many people do not know about Princeville, North Carolina, a little town that is part of Edgecombe County. It is the oldest incorporated Black town in the United States. Settled after the Civil War in 1865, the town was originally called Freedom Hill by those who had been enslaved. Turner Prince, who was born in 1843 as a slave, was a big part of the settlement of the area. The town was eventually named after him.
Prince used the skills that he had acquired as a slave in carpentry to build a free community for him, his family, and other freed slaves. During 1873, he purchased a half-acre lot and built a house for his wife, Sarah and their 3 children. Prince worked hard to move beyond the struggle of slavery, and help others become self-sufficient with a freed-slave community.
Freedom Hill was incorporated in 1885, in honor of Turner Prince, the town was at the time renamed by the citizens to Princeville. Throughout history, the city has endured racial intimidations, economic and social isolation. The problem with flooding dates all the way back to the 1800. After the building of a levee in 1965 to prevent major flooding, the town saw many modern improvements, the expanding of its borders, and a growth in population and an increase in the number of businesses. However, the city and people struggled so many years before the levee was even built.
The worse flood since the levee had been built happened in 1999. A flood caused by Hurricane Dennis and Floyd broke the levee and wiped out the town. The media showed photos of coffins washing up, homes completely under water, the town was no more. The town gained national attention then to its historical and social significance as a symbol of African-American preservation.
Today the town of about 2,100 people is slowing rebuilding from the devastation. It is a little town with great pride of its African-American heritage in the United States history. The town now works with people from the NCLLP to collect growing numbers and interviews of the history of long-time residents.