In one of his biographies, he was described as “a true Southern gentleman: smart, well-dressed and debonair.” A Black slaveowner who became a Republic politician, Antoine Dubuclet saved Louisiana from bankruptcy. He was the only Black in the south to hold the office of state treasurer for more than one term. Dubuclet was also one of only two to serve as state treasurer during Southern Reconstruction.
Before making history in Louisiana politics, Dubuclet was among some of the biggest Black slave owners who are rarely discussed today but changed the course of American history. In Louisiana, he was a sugar planter with hundreds of slaves, some of whom he inherited from his father. That turned him into the wealthiest Black slaveowner in the 1860s.
Widely regarded as one of the richest men in all of the South, even richer than his white neighbors, Dubuclet was born a free man to free parents in 1810 and inherited a large sugar plantation called Cedar Grove from his father, Antoine Dubuclet Sr. Dubuclet was given a part of his grandfather’s name but he used his father’s name because he was the eldest son. Dubuclet’s father was a successful free man of color who owned around 406 acres of land and 70 slaves. Not surprisingly, his son became successful, too.
After Dubuclet had inherited his father’s estate following his father’s death in 1828, he added 30 more Black slaves to the 70 he inherited from his father as the plantation grew. By 1860, he owned over 100 slaves and had one of the largest sugar plantations in Louisiana. Records say his plantation was worth $264,000, while the average income of his neighbors in the South was only around $3,978.
He married a wealthy Black woman called Claire Pollard in the mid-1830s. She also owned her own plantation with 44 slaves. Dubuclet managed both plantations, and that helped to grow his wealth in the 1860s, becoming Louisiana’s wealthiest slaveholder. At the time, his wife had died. Later, the Civil War destroyed much of the South and the plantation industry, compelling Dubuclet to enter into politics.
In 1868, he was elected state treasurer of Louisiana and was re-elected in 1870 and 1874. But he had to overcome certain hurdles to make it in politics. According to one account, Dubuclet was the only office holder who survived the “Battle of Liberty Place” in September of 1874, an attempted insurrection and coup d’etat by the Crescent City White League against the Reconstruction Era Louisiana Republican state government. Dubuclet also had to overcome impeachment in 1876. By the following year, he had retired from politics.
At the time of his death on December 18, 1887, he was one of the South’s richest men. He had 12 children in all, nine from his first wife and three from his second.
His interesting story as a Black person who acquired wealth during slavery as a Black slaveowner should always be told. Most slave owners were thought to be mostly wealthy, white individuals but historical accounts have shown that slaves were also largely owned by Black people or people of color. In 1830, 3,775 freed former slaves owned about 12,100 slaves, writes historian Carter G. Woodson.