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Caesar Antoine

Caesar Carpetier Antoine (1836–1921) was one of three African American Republicans who served as lieutenant governor of Louisiana during the era of Reconstruction. In addition, Antoine was a soldier, businessman, and editor.

Antoine was born in New Orleans, the son of a veteran of the Battle of New Orleans, which followed the War of 1812. His mother was a native of the West Indies and the daughter of an African chief. Antoine attended private schools in New Orleans and was fluent in French and English. On reaching adulthood, Antoine became a barber.

After national troops occupied the Louisiana capital city of Baton Rouge in 1862, Antoine organized Company I, Seventh Louisiana Colored Regiment. As captain of the company, he engaged in minor engagements until the war ended in 1865. After the fighting, Antoine moved to the northwestern Louisiana city of Shreveport, the seat of Caddo Parish, where he established a family grocery business. He soon entered politics and became a delegate to the Louisiana constitutional convention of 1867-1868. At the convention, Antoine advocated tax reforms, an extensive bill of rights, and application to the United States Congress for extension of the Freedmen's Bureau (1865-1872).

Antoine served as a member of the Louisiana State Senate from Caddo Parish from 1868-1872 and was assigned to the committees on (1) commerce and maufacturers and (2) education. He was a strong proponent of emerging public education. In 1875, he served by appointment on the Caddo Parish School Board.

Antoine was elected lieutenant governor in 1872 on the Republican ticket headed by William Pitt Kellogg, considered a Carpetbaggers. Two other blacks, Oscar J. Dunn and P.B.S. Pinchback, respectively, preceded Antoine as lieutenant governor. The Republicans renominated Antoine for a second term in 1876 on a ticket headed by Stephen B. Packard as the gubernatorial choice. Packard and Antoine, however, were defeated by the Democratic "Redeemer" ticket headed by former Confederate States of America Brigadier General Francis T. Nicholls.

Antoine invested in railroad and lottery stocks and raised racehorses. In 1880, he became president of the Cosmopolitan Life Insurance Company. He also joined Pinchback as a copartner in a cotton factorage. He edited the semiweekly New Orleans Louisianan from 1870 to 1872.

Little is known about Antoine after 1887. He was vice president of the New Orleans Committee of Colored Citizens, which was formed in 1890 to wage a legal battle against racial discrimination. The committee collected more than $2,000 to challenge the constitutionality of the 1890 Jim Crow compulsory segregation law. The committee engaged Homer Plessy to test the public accommodations provision of the Louisiana law, an action which led to the Plessy v. Ferguson decision by the United States Supreme Court which affirmed the legality of "separate-but-equal" facilities. Antoine's committee also failed in an attempt to have the state law forbidding racial intermarriage declared unconstitutional.

Antoine purchased a small plantation in Caddo Parish and owned several city lots. He died in Shreveport and is buried there.

References

  • Caesar Carpetier Antoine" A Dictionary of Louisiana Biography, Vol. 1 (1988), p. 16
  • John W. Blassingame, Black New Orleans, 1860-1880 (1973)
  • Dorothea Olga McCants, ed., Our People and Our History (1973)
  • Charles Vincent, Black Legislators in Louisiana during Reconstruction (1976)
  • Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (1982)

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