Marie Thérèse Coincoin: A Slave Master’s Story in Antebellum America


In the annals of American history, the narrative of slavery is often depicted as a binary struggle between oppressors and the oppressed. However, the reality is far more nuanced, as evidenced by individuals like Marie Thérèse Coincoin, whose life challenges simplistic notions of power and complicity. Born into slavery in August 1742 in Natchitoches Parish, Louisiana, Marie Thérèse Coincoin defied conventional roles and expectations, emerging as a prominent figure in the complex tapestry of antebellum America.

Amidst the backdrop of systemic oppression and racial hierarchy, Marie Thérèse Coincoin’s narrative emerges as a compelling testament to the complexities of life under slavery. Her story exemplifies the intricate interplay of agency, survival, and resilience within the context of slavery, inviting us to explore the multifaceted dynamics of power and identity in the pre-Civil War South. Her remarkable journey challenges conventional narratives, prompting a deeper examination of the diverse experiences and strategies employed by individuals navigating the harsh realities of antebellum society.

Marie Thérèse Coincoin: A Legacy of Complexity

The 1830 U.S. census reveals a startling statistic: 3,776 free blacks owned 12,907 black slaves, a phenomenon predominantly observed in port cities such as Savannah, Georgia; Charleston, South Carolina; and New Orleans. Among these unconventional slave owners, Marie Thérèse Coincoin occupies a unique place in history, challenging prevailing narratives of race, gender, and power dynamics in antebellum America. Her story sheds light on the complexities of identity, agency, and survival in a society rife with contradictions and inequities.

The Enigmatic Figure of Marie Thérèse Coincoin:

Marie Thérèse Coincoin’s life defies easy categorization. While she was born into slavery, she navigated the intricate social hierarchies of colonial Louisiana with remarkable tenacity and resilience. A Louisiana Creole of African descent, Marie Thérèse Coincoin rose to prominence not only as a slave owner but also as a savvy businesswoman and landowner in her own right. Her story challenges conventional narratives of victimhood and subjugation, offering a complex portrait of agency and empowerment in the face of systemic oppression.

Navigating the Complexities of Ownership:

As a slave owner, Marie Thérèse Coincoin occupied a precarious position within the rigid hierarchy of antebellum society. While some may view her ownership of slaves as evidence of complicity in the institution of slavery, closer examination reveals a more nuanced reality. Many of the individuals “owned” by Marie Thérèse Coincoin were likely family members or loved ones whom she sought to protect and, if possible, liberate from bondage. Her ownership of slaves must be understood within the broader context of survival and resistance in a society built on exploitation and inequality.

Marie Thérèse Coincoin’s Entrepreneurial Spirit:

Beyond her role as a slave owner, Marie Thérèse Coincoin demonstrated remarkable entrepreneurial acumen, engaging in various business ventures that allowed her to accumulate wealth and influence in colonial Louisiana. She leveraged her resources to purchase land and establish successful enterprises, defying the constraints imposed by her status as a woman of color in a deeply stratified society. Her achievements serve as a testament to the resilience and resourcefulness of marginalized individuals in the face of systemic oppression.

Legacy and Historical Context:

Marie Thérèse Coincoin’s legacy raises profound questions about power, privilege, and agency in the context of slavery. Her ability to navigate the complexities of antebellum society speaks to the resilience and resourcefulness of marginalized communities in the face of oppression. While her actions may defy easy moral categorization, they invite us to reexamine our understanding of historical actors and the complex forces that shaped their lives. In grappling with the legacy of individuals like Marie Thérèse Coincoin, we are compelled to confront the uncomfortable truths of America’s past and reckon with the enduring legacies of slavery and its aftermath.


In the tapestry of American history, the story of Marie Thérèse Coincoin serves as a powerful reminder of the complexities of human experience and the ambiguities of power and complicity. Her life challenges us to move beyond simplistic narratives of victimhood and villainy, urging us to confront the multifaceted realities of slavery and its aftermath. As we continue to reckon with the legacies of America’s past, the story of Marie Thérèse Coincoin reminds us of the importance of grappling with nuance and complexity in our understanding of history and its enduring impact on our world today.

Marie Thérèse Coincoin’s journey resonates as a testament to the resilience and agency of marginalized individuals, offering insights into the enduring struggles for freedom and dignity that shape our collective history. Her legacy prompts a deeper reflection on the complexities of power dynamics and the moral ambiguities inherent in systems of oppression. Through her resilience and determination, Marie Thérèse Coincoin’s story becomes a beacon of hope, illuminating the path towards a more equitable and just future for all. Her story serves as a sobering reminder of the complex and often painful realities of history, urging us to acknowledge the full spectrum of human experiences and injustices.

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