François Lacroix was probably the wealthiest black man in New Orleans during the years before the Civil War. David C. Rankin, in a 1979 essay on the free colored leadership in New Orleans, values Lacroix's 1861 property at $242,570, $71 thousand more than the second most prosperous man on his list. Loren Schweninger, in a 1989 study of African American Louisianians during the post-Civil War era, notes that Lacroix had "acquired an estate of $242,600 (one of the largest for a free Negro in the South)." Sally Reeves, in her 1974 chapter on the "Free People of Color," says that "Possibly the most interesting of the businessmen, probably the wealthiest, certainly the most pervasive, were the brothers François and Julien Adolphe Lacroix."

These relatively brief discussions of François Lacroix and his role in New Orleans business and society only scratch the surface. Much more can--and should--be said about this multifaceted Creole gentleman. We present this exhibit in order to make a case for Lacroix as a worthy subject for historians interested in the history of antebellum New Orleans. Unless otherwise noted, all of the items displayed in the exhibit are from the two cubic feet of documents that comprise Lacroix's succession record. That record would be the logical starting place for more detailed study of the man, his commercial ventures, his wealth, and his charities. Additional information will be available in the acts of sale, contracts, and other records housed in the New Orleans Notarial Archives.

The World of François Lacroix was designed and mounted by Wayne Everard and Irene Wainwright, archivists in the Louisiana Division/City Archives. Greg Osborn and Tito Brin, also of the Louisiana Division, assisted in the research for the exhibit. Sally Reeves and her staff at the Notarial Archives helped in locating the plan used in the title panel. Ridgway's, Inc. provided reprographic and lamination services for the panel.

The exhibit will remain on view in the Louisiana Division of the Main Library through April, 2002. This online will be available in NUTRIAS indefinitely.

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