The Boré Plantation: Sugar Production and its Impact on Slavery in the 19th Century 

Today’s Audubon Park was once the location of the Boré Plantation. In the late eighteenth century, Étienne de Boré converted his plantation crop from indigo to sugar cane due to significant financial struggles. This conversion was only made possible by Antoine Morin, a chemist and a free man of color originally from Saint-Domingue. [3] On the Boré Plantation, Morin innovated a new process that allowed for sugar granulation. This innovation led not only to the increased wealth and status of Étienne de Boré, but also jump-started the Southern Louisiana sugar industry. 

While the ability to granulate sugar in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries caused an economic boom for plantation owners and the local economy, it came with the aggressive expansion of the slave trade and deadly working conditions for people enslaved on sugar plantations. 

The domestic slave trade expanded to meet sugar plantation owners increased demand for enslaved labor. The sugar industry directly contributed to the forced relocation of hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children from the Upper South to the Lower South, disrupting lives and tearing apart families. After the introduction of the sugar industry to Louisiana in 1795, New Orleans became a hub for the domestic slave trade. [5]

Sugar production in eighteenth century Louisiana was labor-intensive and brutal for enslaved people. Sugarcane grows in tropical climates and requires a full eleven or twelve months to reach maturity. Louisiana differs from other sugar-producing regions in the Caribbean belt, such as Saint Domingue or Jamaica, in that Louisiana experiences annual frosts in the winter months. Facing the possibility of losing their crop to frost, Louisiana enslavers and plantation owners forced enslaved people to work day and night during the harvest months between October and December because of sugarcanes’ short window of harvest. [1] Sugar harvesting proceeded at a furious pace, each day enslaved people worked sixteen to eighteen-hour shifts. [2] Nobody was too young or too old to work. Child labor in sugar production was common, leaving children exposed to boiling kettles, hot furnaces, and machetes. [2] 

While harvest season was brutal in its breakneck pace, labor on sugar plantations was difficult for the rest of the year as well. The spring and summer months were not restful, as enslaved people tended to other crops and maintained farm equipment and plantation buildings.

Combined with the dangers of harvesting, the furnaces, and mills, environmental factors on sugar plantations also made a dangerous life for enslaved people. 

While the possibility of disease was a risk all year for enslaved people, the hot and swampy summer months created an increased risk for diseases like malaria, cholera, and yellow fever. [2]

Across the United States, Louisiana sugar plantations were the only plantations where the death rate of enslaved people exceeded the birthrate. The dangers of disease, the violence of the slave trade, and the sugar production’s grueling labor for enslaved people were all exasterbated by Boré’s sugar plantation. [4]