Kinston is located in Lenoir County (of which it is the county seat) north of Jacksonville between Goldsboro and New Bern along US Highway 70 on the banks of the Neuse River.
Kinston is home to one of the few ironclad ships used in the Civil War. In 1865 the Confederate troops sank the CSS Ram Neuse in the Neuse River to prevent it from falling into Union hands. The boat was recovered from the bottom of the river in 1963 and is now on display at the CSS Neuse State Historical Site. In 1962 the city celebrated its bicentennial. In honor of the event, the College of Arms in London, England created a coat of arms for the city. It was the first time the centuries old organization had ever designed a coat of arms for an American city.
The population estimate for July 1, 1998 was 24,470, a decrease of 825 since 1990.