At the time of his death in 1887, Antoine Dubuclet was a wealthy man. A very wealthy man. In fact, he was widely regarded as one of the richest men in all of the South, richer even than his white neighbors. According to historians’ estimates, he was worth around $265,000, around 200 times the average annual income. As well as his land, he also owned significant numbers of slaves. Moreover, he was well-respected in society, not just because of his riches. Dubluclet was, in many ways, a true Southern gentleman: smart, well-dressed and debonair. The Dubluclet family had come a long way in a very short space of time.
Unlike many slave owners of colour of the period, Antoine Dubuclet was born to free parents. He was born in 1810, the son of a part-owner of a sugar plantation close to Baton Rouge. When his father died, his mother moved to New Orleans with Antoine’s younger brothers and sisters. Antoine, meanwhile, took over at the plantation. As well as the land, he also inherited around 70 slaves. In 1834, the other partners in the plantation sold up and the whole business was split equally between Antoine and his siblings. However, Antoine retained a position of leadership, growing the business until, by 1860, it was one of the largest sugar plantations in all of Louisiana, with around 100 slaves toiling the fields.
The American Civil War sent the sugar industry into freefall. Plantation owners, both white and black, lost huge sums of money. However, Antoine had married well back in the 1830s. His free, colored wife had wealth of her own and he had used it wisely, diversifying their investments. As such, Antoine came out of the war in good shape and soon entered the world of politics. He was nominated as the Republican candidate for the Louisiana state treasurer in 1868 and won. Against the odds, he got the bankrupt state back into the black, ensuring his re-election in 1870 and then again in 1874. He died in 1887 and is buried in New Orleans.