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They Were Free

by Michael Polzella
Sign explaining the history of Princeville, North Carolina.

They were free. They didn’t know what to do.

The former slaves gathered around a hill just south of Tarboro (later called Freedom Hill) because that was where the Civil War’s Union troops were. The Union leaders told them to go back to the plantations as workers and free men, and not slaves.

But they didn’t want to go back. Not ever. So they stayed. The freedmen first built shanties, then acquired lots for more permanent housing. One of the first was Thomas Prince, who built not only his home but a carpentry business.

The Town of Princeville was born.

Ron Smith, S&A Communications

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