Marcus Garvey once said, “A people without knowledge of their past history, origin, and culture is like a tree without roots.”
Without roots, it is impossible for African Americans to tap into their Ancestral Greatness; without roots, it is also too easy to mistake revisionist history as Truth.
Case in point: Though Henry Miller Shreve ― a steamboat captain and New Jersey native hired to help clear the Red River for navigation ― is Shreveport, Louisiana’s namesake, he was not the entity responsible for the city’s incorporation, even as he is widely credited as such. The person who did incorporate the Louisiana city was Caesar Carpenter (C.C.) Antoine, a name that’s unfamiliar to a vast majority of Shreveport’s 200,000-plus residents, irrespective of the fact that Antione was the man who drafted the charter legislation that turned the unincorporated area of Shreve’s Town into ShrevePORT.
C.C. Antoine’s Black skin is the reason his contributions to both the City of Shreveport and the State of Louisiana have remained largely ignored. Henry Miller Shreve’s more palatable and privileged pigment made it easy for the city’s historians – and most of its citizens – to mislabel Antoine’s achievements as his own, giving Shreve credit for work he never did.
Who Was C.C. Antoine?
Antoine’s journey began in New Orleans in 1836, the son of a West Indies mother of noble African blood, and a father who was one of the few Black male veterans of the War of 1812.
As an adult, Antoine would later enlist in the Union Army, eventually establishing Company I, 7th Louisiana Colored Regiment, Corps d’Afrique, where he also served as Captain. It was not long after the end of the Civil War that Antoine moved to Shreveport, and began his ascent up Louisiana’s political ladder, cementing his status as one of the state’s greatest African American luminaries.
By the time of his death, C.C. Antoine had served in the Louisiana State Senate, was Lt. Gov. of Louisiana, and had also served as the state’s acting governor.
He was also a newspaper editor and publisher, and entrepreneur.
One of Antoine’s most notable contributions, however, was as Vice President of the Comité des Citoyens, an organization formed to challenge Louisiana’s Draconian segregation laws. Comité des Citoyens’ most notable work was their involvement in Plessy v. Ferguson, a case that would later become the foundation for the eventual success of Brown v. Board of Education.
Why it matters
Most Shreveport residents, especially those of African descent, are hard-pressed to believe that the city is poised to become “The Next Great City of the South,” especially when factoring in Shreveport’s own checkered past as the former national headquarters of the KKK. It has been increasingly difficult for Black Shreveporters to believe the hype, after they’ve discovered contributions of Black men of C.C. Antoine’s stature are so carelessly erased from the history books.
This is the primary motivation behind the C.C. Antoine Black History Celebration.
The C.C. Antoine Black History Celebration originated in 2009 , and was born out of a vision to help educate and enlighten citizens throughout Shreveport-Bossier City and Northwest Louisiana about the significant accomplishments and struggles of African Americans in America.
The yearly celebrations highlight the importance researching, studying, celebrating, and embracing Black History is to the overall American fabric. Antoine’s story is not only African American history; it is American history, as well.
The family-friendly event, held annually in Shreveport’s historic C.C. Antoine Park, includes something for everyone — horseback rides and face painting for the kids, spoken word and live music performances for the adults, muscle car displays from the city’s sole Black-owned classic car club, and a cash-prize Black History quiz designed to increase awareness of the city’s little-known, yet no less important Black History facts.
There’s an African Proverb that says,
‘Til the Lions have their own historians, tales of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.
With increased knowledge of the contributions and sacrifices of men like C.C. Antoine, there exists the possibility to reverse that trend.
For more information on C.C. Antoine, go here.