Birth of a Colony

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Birth of a Colony

This ninety-minute UNC-TV program highlights the beginnings of what is now the State of North Carolina, from the years before the Europeans came when thousands of Native-Americans prospered in towns and villages, through the first visitors and early settlers of the "Lost Colony," and then early colonial development and growth in the 17th and 18th centuries, followed by the horrors of warfare against the once-powerful Tuscarora. It is truly the story of North Carolina's beginnings.

Birth of a Colony uses on-location filming, archival sources from galleries and museums world-wide, re-creations, ancient maps and modern graphics to illuminate a compelling story as told by renowned historians and writers. The North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources, collaborating with UNC-TV and Horizon Productions, began work in 2007 and this program was completed in 2011. A distinguished panel of historians guided the production team and writers to assure that the program was as accurate and thorough as possible.

The program is presented in five main acts:

Act 1: First on the Land
Native-Americans, residents for centuries in what the Europeans call the New World, are visited briefly in 1524 by a Florentine navigator, Giovanni da Verrazano, who passes what is now the Outer Banks of North Carolina. His men go ashore and, seeing the Pamlico Sound and no land in sight, decide it is a western sea and name it for their leader -- Verrazano's Sea.

Act 2: The Road to Zacatecas
By the middle of the sixteenth century, Spain has conquered much of the New World from the Caribbean to Central and South America. Sugar plantations are wide-spread and contribute much to the Spanish economy, but it is the silver mines at Zacatecas in northwest Mexico that are uppermost in King Philip's mind as he envisions a vast colony in North America to protect his treasure ships from European rivals. Spanish forces under the command of Captain Juan Pardo march inland from a new settlement on what is now Parris Island, South Carolina, on a route that will take them into the foothills of the Appalachians in search of a new route west... and straight into the territory of Indians whose hospitality soon turns to violence.

Act 3: The Roanoke Voyages
Late in the century, England, under the Virgin Queen, Elizabeth, undertakes a series of attempts to gain a foothold in the New World, partly in quest of new territory, but also as a haven for privateers, licensed mariners under the Queen's flag, who prey on treasure-laden Spanish vessels and split their prizes with the monarchy. Sir Walter Raleigh commands a succession of ill-fated missions, though he himself never visits the colonies. Each mission is unique, but the final expedition, the one we now call the Lost Colony, is filled with mystery, betrayal and intrigue--and questions that are unanswered even today.

Act 4: A New Voyage to Carolina
Almost seventy years after the failures of the colonies at Roanoke, English colonies are well established along the coast of the Atlantic, and again Englishmen are coming to what is now North Carolina. But this time, they are not coming from England, but from other colonies that have expanded, creating a shortage of good, usable land for farming. Charles II has reclaimed the monarchy in England and rewarded a number of his supporters with huge grants of land in the New World. These men, the Lords Proprietors, establish the Fundamental Constitutions of Carolina, creating a new form of governing that, along with the promise of religious freedom, will bring settlers, religious dissenters and new problems for this struggling colony. One newcomer to these lands, explorer, naturalist, and later, surveyor, John Lawson, will deliver a lasting impact through both his writings and deeds -- some that will reshape the colony forever.

Act 5: The Tuscarora War
Before the coming of Europeans, the Tuscarora had been the most powerful tribe in eastern Carolina, controlling most of the land between the Roanoke and Neuse Rivers, but now there are European settlements everywhere. And every month brings more outsiders with an insatiable thirst for land. On September 22, 1711, the Tuscarora have had enough and hundreds of Natives will attack simultaneously along the Neuse and Pamlico Rivers, brutally murdering men, women and children and signaling the beginning of what we call the Tuscarora War. Nearly four years will pass before a treaty is signed in 1715, and the Tuscarora of Carolina are no longer a power to be reckoned with.

Horizon Productions    UNC-TV    NC Dept. of Cultural Resources