As the indentured servants gained their freedom and fewer could be persuaded to leave England because of improving conditions there, the colonists imported an increasing number of African slaves to satisfy the labor demand.
Many worked in the port as laborers, and some in ship-related trades.
Due to Wilmington's commercial importance as a major port, it had a critical role in opposition to the British in the years leading up to the Revolution.
The city had outspoken political leaders who influenced and led the resistance movement in North Carolina.
The World War II battleship USS North Carolina is held as a war memorial; moored across from the downtown port area, the ship is open to public tours.