The district was re-established after the 1990 United States Census, when North Carolina gained a district. It was drawn in 1992 as one of two black majority (minority-majority) districts. With 64 percent African-American residents, it stretched from Gastonia to Durham. It was very long and so thin at some points that it was no wider than a highway lane, as it followed Interstate 85 almost exactly, and was criticized as a gerrymandered district. When created in the 1990s, it was one of two minority-majority Congressional districts in the state.
The Wall Street Journal called the district "political pornography." The United States Supreme Court ruled in Shaw v. Reno, 509 U.S. 630 (1993) that a racial gerrymander may, in some circumstances, violate the Equal Protection Clause. Subsequently, the district was redrawn several times and was adjudicated in the Supreme Court on two further occasions. The version created after the 2000 census was approved by the US Supreme Court in Hunt v. Cromartie. The current version, based on the 2010 census, has a small plurality of whites.
Its current representative is Democrat Melvin Watt, who has represented the district since its re-establishment in 1993.