Robeson County is a county in the U.S. state of North Carolina. As of 2010 it had a population of 134,168. Since then, it has been one of the 10% of United States counties that were majority-minority; its combined population of American Indian, African American and Latino residents comprise over 68% of the total. Native Americans make up 38% of the population.
Robeson County was formed in 1787 from part of Bladen County. It was named in honor of Col. Thomas Robeson of Tar Heel, North Carolina, a hero of the Revolutionary War. In 1781, Robeson and 70 Patriots defeated an army of 400 Loyalists at the Battle of Elizabethtown.
The Lumbee Indian Tribe of North Carolina comprises more than one-half the state of North Carolina's indigenous population of 101,000. With a population of 58,443, reflecting a 34.5% increase from the 1980 population of 43,465 members, the Lumbee reside primarily in Robeson, Hoke, Cumberland, and Scotland counties. In Robeson County, Native Americans number 46,869 out of a total county population of 123,339. Most identify as Lumbee, and Native Americans make up 38.02%, comprising the largest racial/ethnic group in the county.
The Lumbee are the largest tribal nation east of the Mississippi River, and the ninth largest tribal nation in the United States. They are the largest non-reservation tribe of Native Americans in the United States. Several majority-Lumbee communities are located within Robeson
By the beginning of the American Civil War, many remnant Native Americans in the Upper South struggled to survive and their status continued to decline. Since 1790, Native Americans in the southern states were enumerated as "free persons of color" on the local and federal census, included with African Americans. By 1835, in the wake of Nat Turner's Slave Rebellion of 1831, North Carolina like other southern states reduced the rights of free people of color, including those identifying as Native Americans. Out of fear of slave rebellion aided by free blacks, the legislature withdrew the rights of free people of color to vote, serve on juries, own and use firearms, and learn to read and write. During the 1830s, the federal government forced Indian Removal, relocating the Cherokee and other of the Five Civilized Tribes to Indian Territory west of the Mississippi River. Native Americans who stayed in the Southeast tended to live in frontier and marginal areas to avoid white supervision
North Carolina seceded from the Union in 1861. A major yellow fever epidemic in 1862 killed 10 percent of the Cape Fear region's population. Most white men of military age had either enlisted with the Confederacy or fled the region. The Confederate Army conscripted African-American slaves as workers to build a system of forts to defend Fort Fisher, near Wilmington, North Carolina. Such conscription affected the free people of color of Robeson County, too.
Robeson County's home guard, which included county magistrates, clergymen, and lawyers, who mainly represented the interests of the planter class (large slaveholders were exempted from participation in the army), had raided the farmstead of Allen Lowrie, Henry Berry Lowrie's father. In the confrontation, they killed Allen and another son William. Henry Lowrie swore revenge.
Late in the Civil War, General William Tecumseh Sherman and his army began to push their way toward Robeson County as they headed north. After hearing of the Union Army's burning of Columbia, South Carolina on February 17, 1865, residents of Robeson County worried about the troops' advance. Washington Chaffin, a Methodist minister in Lumberton speculated in his diary about how the county might be treated by Sherman and his Yankees. Chaffin noted that Henry Berry Lowrie and his gangwere "doing much mischief in this country." Lowrie's gang had "torn up and destroyed" white homesteads. In the late stages of the war, gangs and insurgents carried out private feuds.
During the next seven years, Henry Lowrie led a group of free people of color, poor whites and blacks in one of many postwar insurgent movements during years of social disruption. He campaigned against the white elite. His activities made him a folk hero to many of the poorer folk.