The Port of Wilmington is the seat of New Hanover County in southeastern North Carolina in the United States. Located just 22 kilometers north of the Military Ocean Terminal at Sunny Point and about 130 kilometers southwest of the Port of Moorehead City, the Port of Wilmington lies on the shores of the Cape Fear River about 48 kilometers from its mouth to the Atlantic Ocean. In 2000, the Port of Wilmington was home to almost 76 thousand people, and over 233 thousand lived in the metropolitan area.
In addition to its international seaport, the Port of Wilmington is home to several industries making medical, electrical, and telecommunications equipment; clothing, paper products; and pharmaceuticals. Food processing is also an important part of the local economy. The Port of Wilmington also contains one of the United States' biggest research centers. The Port of Wilmington underwent tremendous growth in the 1990s, making it the second-fastest growing city in the United States.
Europeans tried to settle in the Cape Fear region in the 17th Century, but the first permanent settlement, called New Carthage, was established by English immigrants in the 1720s. The town was incorporated in 1739, and it was renamed Wilmington in honor of Spencer Compton , Earl of Wilmington.
The first armed uprising in response to the British Stamp Act took place in the Port of Wilmington in 1765. The Battle of Moores Creek Bridge in 1776 thwarted an attempt by British forces to divide the colonies. Today, that site is a national military park about 32 kilometers northwest of the Port of Wilmington.
In 1781, British general Lord Cornwallis used the Port of Wilmington as his headquarters after his defeat at the Battle of Guilford Courthouse to recruit soldiers and refit his command before moving on to Virginia.
Forestry was a major industry throughout the 19th and 20th Centuries, and lumber and naval stores were mainstays of the economy before and after the American Revolution . During the Civil War , the Port of Wilmington was an important base for Confederate blockade runners and the last port to fall. Union forces captured the city in 1865 after Fort Fisher fell. Because most of the fighting took place outside the Port of Wilmington, many of its antebellum homes and other historic buildings survived.
Slavery was introduced to the Port of Wilmington early in its history, as the landowners needed the labor to take advantage of the area's abundant natural resources. One sad page in the Port of Wilmington's story was written when a group of white citizens attacked and destroyed the building where the African-American newspaper was printed. After that destruction, the mob lynched several blacks and ran many others out of town. This event became known as the Massacre of 1898 .
After the event, the Republican leadership was forced out of office, and the mob's leader was installed as mayor of the Port of Wilmington. These events contributed to North Carolina becoming one of the first southern states to be controlled by the Democratic Party and an early proponent of the Jim Crow laws that lasted until the mid-20th Century and the Civil Rights Movement .
In 2006, an official report prepared by the 1898 Wilmington Race Riot Commission detailed the causes and results of the riots and proposed recommendations designed to correct the wrongs done. Their resolution was a formal apology to those affected and a renunciation of the terrible actions of 1898.