Tar Heel is a nickname applied to the U.S. state of North Carolina and its inhabitants. It is also the nickname of the University of North Carolina athletic teams, students, alumni, and fans.
The exact etymology of the nickname is unknown, but most folklore believe its roots come from the fact that tar, pitch, and turpentine created from the vast pine forests were some of North Carolina's most important exports early in the state's history. For a time after the American Civil War, the name Tar Heel was derogatory, but it was later reappropriated by the people of North Carolina. Because the exact history of the term is unknown, a number of legends have developed to explain it. One such legend claims it to be a nickname given during the U.S. Civil War, because of the state's importance on the Confederate side, and the fact that the troops "stuck to their ranks like they had tar on their heels". The term "Tar Heel" gained popularity during the Civil War.
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