Onward and upward
In the late 1940s, Princeville, N.C., looked like an ordinary eastern Carolina community with the usual businesses and services of a small town — a garage, blacksmith, gristmill, grocery stores, and service stations. However, this little town of 1,000 residents had become distinguished in at least two ways: It had grown sufficiently to become the second largest town in Edgecombe County, and was the only town in the country that was operated exclusively by African-Americans, according to the October 1946 issue of The American City. Founded in 1872 as Freedom Hill and incorporated in 1885 as Princeville, the town was named after Turner Prince, a former slave and the town’s first mayor. By the end of World War II, the city was led by a mayor and four commissioners, and also employed a town clerk, police chief, treasurer and tax collector.
Today, after surviving a flood in 1999, the community continues to grow, and its population — still largely African-American — now has surpassed 1,600. Still governed by a mayor and four commissioners, Princeville has added several city positions, including a town manager, town attorney, finance officer, utility clerk, two public works staffers and four police officers. Currently, Princeville residents are gearing up for the town’s 125th birthday celebration in February 2010, and the town recently completed a Historical Museum and Welcome Center that will house artifacts and detail Princeville history. A landmark designating Freedom Hill also is a popular attraction.