Black Then: African-American People on The Titanic?

3 Posted by - August 4, 2015 - LATEST POSTS

If you are like most people who saw the movie the Titantic, or heard stories about the big ship that sunk, that supposedly God, himself could not destroy, then you might not recall seeing a Black person. However, too many people’s surprises there was only one person of African descendant on the ship, Joseph Laroche. He was on the ship with his wife Juliette Lafargue Laroche, and their two daughters, the marriage was interracial.

As the ship began to sank, Joseph gathered his pregnant wife and children to the deck, he managed to stuff his coat with money and jewelry. He got his family off the boat and into a lifeboat. He told his family he would see them in New York, however, before his wife got on the boat, he passed his coat to his wife and told her she would need the coat. Joseph Laroche would later die in the sinking Titanic.

Joseph Laroche was born in Cap Haitien, Haiti, in 1886. He was 15 years old when he left Haiti and traveled to Beauvais, France to study engineering while in high school. He met his wife in a nearby city, Villejuif. After he received his degree in engineering they were married, and their daughter Simonne was born in 1909, they had a second daughter Louise who had medical conditions because of being born prematurely.

Joseph Laroche had a difficult time getting a high paying job because of racial discrimination. So, the plan was for them to move back to Haiti in order for Laroche to get a high paying job in his field. However, things did not quite work out as planned because Juliette Laroche found out she was pregnant, so the plan was to move the moving date up before she became too far along to travel.

For a welcome present Joseph’s mother in Haiti bought them steamship tickets on the La France, but the line’s strict policy regarding children caused them to transfer their booking to the Titanic’s second class. Racism towards the couple because of their interracial marriage was rampant aboard the ship, especially among the crew members.

Historians told the story of a brave Laroche after the iceburg it the Titantic. He was determined to save his family, and remained calm through the whole ordeal. Joseph Laroche’s body was never found. When Juliette returned to Paris with her daughters she later gave birth to a son, Joseph Lemercier Laroche. Joseph’s  two daughters were of interracial descendant but considered Black. The White Star Line, the company that owned the Titanic, issued a public apology for the rude comments that were made by the crew to Joseph Laroche and his family.

 

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