Princeville Plans For the Future
Posted December 9, 1998
PRINCEVILLE — A small Edgecombe County town claims it was the first in America incorporated by free men and former slaves. Now years later, the poor town of Princeville hopes its rich history can reshape its future.
People in Princeville believe there's enough history and character in thisEdgecombe Countytown to turn it into a tourist spot.
Former slaves from Tarboro founded the town in the 19th century. Local leaders claim it was the first in the nation chartered by African Americans.
"What they did was decided to walk across the river and start a town," Andrea Harris says. The minority development specialist calls the move "extremely visionary."
Conditions have always been difficult in the small town. It flooded for decades, until the federal government built a dike along the Tar River. The levee was the first major victory for the townspeople.
The town has overcome its share of problems more recently.
Just last year, the state had to take over Princeville's government because of an impasse between elected officials.
Voters took care of that problem by voting out almost everyone on the town commission, and today they are looking forward to what they hope will be a profitable future.
Former Mayor Ed Bridgers says of the town now, "They can find themselves being proud of having this old community governed by its own people, and remembering the time and looking back over where they came from."
Princeville may soon be a federally recognized park. "I think that's what we decided that that's where we would find our niche, right there," Catherine Farmer says.
TheNational Park Serviceemployee thinks they may be able to help the town by "providing some sort of community park or helping them establish some sort of community park and perhaps to do some interpretational on the dikes."