Caesar Antoine

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Caesar Carpentier Antoine
Caesar Antoine (circa 1873).jpg
13th Lieutenant Governor of Louisiana
In office
1872–1876
Preceded by P.B.S. Pinchback
Succeeded by Louis A. Wiltz
Louisiana State Senator from Caddo Parish
In office
1868–1872
Personal details
Born 1836
New Orleans, Louisiana, USA
Died 1921
Shreveport, Caddo Parish
Louisiana
Political party Republican
Residence
  • (1) Shreveport, Louisiana
  • (2) New Orleans, Louisiana
Occupation Barber, Editor, Businessman
Military service
Service/branch United States Army: Seventh Louisiana Colored Regiment
Rank Captain
Battles/wars American Civil War

Caesar Carpentier Antoine (1836–1921) was a politician, the third of three African-American Republicans who were elected and served as the Lieutenant Governor of the U.S. state of Louisiana during the era of Reconstruction. He left office in 1877, the last Republican to hold the lieutenant governorship until 1988. That year Paul Jude Hardy, a former Louisiana Secretary of State and a former Democrat, was elected.

Antoine was also a soldier, businessman, and editor.

Biography[edit]

Antoine was born in New Orleans, the mixed-race son of Dominique Antoine, a free person of color who was a member of the Corps d'Afrique and veteran of the Battle of New Orleans.[1] His mother was Marie, a native of the West Indies.[1] She was said to be the daughter of an African chief who had been captured in warfare and sold into slavery by a rival tribe.[1] Antoine's father paid for the boy to attend private schools in New Orleans; he became fluent in French and English and was part of the well-established class of free people of color in the city. On reaching adulthood, the young Antoine first worked as a barber,[1] a respected position at a time when many men went regularly to the barber, and some in the trade established elite clientele.

Marriage and family[edit]

Antoine had a common-law marriage with Arissa Francoise Gabriel beginning about 1858. They were formally married in 1873. They had a son Joseph born before the war, a daughter Hannah Marie, born during the Civil War; and Vincent, born afterward. After his marriage, Antoine had his children legitimized by a special act of the Louisiana legislature; it was posthumous for Joseph Antoine, who was killed in a riot by whites in 1866.[1] After his wife's death, the widower Antoine married a second time, to Sylviana "Sylvia" Ross.[1]

Civil War service[edit]

During the American Civil War, after Union troops occupied the Louisiana capital city of Baton Rouge in 1862, Antoine organized Company I, Seventh Louisiana Colored Regiment. He was commissioned as captain of the company, and they were engaged in minor actions through the end of the war in 1865.

After the fighting, Antoine moved to the northwestern Louisiana city of Shreveport, the seat of Caddo Parish. There he established a family grocery business.

Political career[edit]

Antoine soon entered politics and was elected as a Republican delegate to the Louisiana constitutional convention of 1867-1868. At the convention, he advocated tax reforms, an extensive bill of rights, and application to the United States Congress for extension of the Freedmen's Bureau, which was established in 1865; it was abolished in 1872.

Antoine served as a member of the Louisiana State Senate from Caddo Parish from 1868 to 1872, and was assigned to committees on Commerce and Manufacturers and on Education. He was a strong proponent of the system of public education, first established in the state by the Reconstruction legislature. Antoine edited the semiweekly, New Orleans Louisianan, from 1870 to 1872. 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, a Northerner (considered a Carpetbagger by white Southerners). Two other blacks, Oscar J. Dunn and P.B.S. Pinchback, respectively, had preceded Antoine in serving 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 were defeated by the Democrat "Redeemer" ticket headed by former Confederate States of America Brigadier General Francis T. Nicholls in a disputed election. As in earlier elections in that decade, it was marked by violence; President Grant refused to recognize the Republican candidates in Louisiana or South Carolina, effectively giving up on those states.

After Reconstruction[edit]

Antoine invested in railroad and lottery stocks and raised racehorses. In 1880, he became president of the Cosmopolitan Life Insurance Company, one of the new businesses owned and operated by African Americans. He also joined P.B.S. Pinchback as a co-partner in a cotton factorage.

Little is known about Antoine after 1887. In 1889 the Louisiana constitution was amended to provide that all persons registering to vote would have to meet educational and property requirements unless their fathers or grandfathers were qualified to vote on January 1, 1867. That grandfather clause excluded African Americans, who could not vote at that time, and they were effectively disfranchised for much of the next several decades, until the Voting Rights Act of 1965 established authority for federal enforcement of constitutional voting rights. This meant they were excluded from juries and from running for any local or state office.

Antoine became vice president of the New Orleans group, the Comité des Citoyens (Citizens' Committee), which was formed in 1890 to wage a legal battle against racial discrimination and the state constitution. The committee collected more than $2,000 to challenge the constitutionality of the 1890 Jim Crow compulsory segregation law passed by the Democratic-dominated legislature.

The committee engaged Homer Plessy to test the public accommodations provision of the Louisiana law on an interstate train. Plessy's action ultimately led to the Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) decision by the United States Supreme Court, which affirmed the legality of "separate-but-equal" facilities. In practice, segregated facilities were seldom equal; those for blacks being consistently underfunded by white-dominated legislatures and local governments. Antoine's committee also challenged a state law forbidding racial intermarriage, but did not succeed in having it declared unconstitutional.

Antoine purchased a small plantation in Caddo Parish and owned several city lots. He died in Shreveport and is interred there.[2]

Legacy and honors[edit]

  • 2008, C. C. Antoine Celebration was established as an annual event during Black History Month in Shreveport.[1][3] The 2014 events include the showing of the film Twelve Years a Slave, based on the Solomon Northrup diary edited by the late Louisiana historian Sue Eakin, a two-mile Health Walk for Life, and the "Pelican Soul Food" cook-off sweet potato pie contest.[4]
  • 1984, a Shreveport park was named for Antoine and a sculpture of him was installed there.[1]
  • Antoine's house in Shreveport is a state historic site for preservation.[1]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Eric J. Brock, "Louisiana Political Pioneer", LOUISIANA CULTURAL VISTAS, Fa1l 2003, pp.85-91
  2. ^ Obituary: "C.C. Antoine", Shreveport Journal, 14 September 1921
  3. ^ C.C. Antoine Celebration website, accessed 7 February 2014
  4. ^ "C. C. Antoine Festival on tap for sixth year, February 14, 2014". Shreveport Times. Retrieved February 15, 2014. 
  5. ^ John Andrew Prime, "Cities to declare Confederate History Month next week", Shreveport Times, n.d., hosted at North Star website, accessed 7 February 2014
  • "Caesar Carpentier 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)
Political offices
Preceded by
P.B.S. Pinchback
Lieutenant Governor of Louisiana

Caesar Carpetier Antoine
1872–1876

Succeeded by
Louis A. Wiltz