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The Laroche Family on the Titanic

Neatorama presents a guest post from actor, comedian, and voiceover artist Eddie Deezen. Visit Eddie at his website. Were there any black people on the Titanic? There have been three excellent movies about the ill-fated luxury liner, the most famous, of course, being James Cameron's 1997 classic Titanic, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet. There are also two other very well-made movies about the doomed ship: another entitled Titanic (1953) and A Night to Remember (1958). In none of these three films is any black person depicted aboard the ship. Several insightful, well-researched documentaries have also been made about the Titanic. In none of these (at least to my knowledge) are any blacks shown, seen, or talked about. So, were there any blacks aboard the Titanic? The answer is yes. The Laroche family, consisting of four members, were the only blacks aboard the ill-fated ship. Joseph Loroche was born on May 26, 1886 in Cap-Haïtien (in the northern part of Haiti). As a young boy growing up in Haiti, he was a very good pupil. In 1901, at the age of 15, he decided he wanted to study engineering. Unfortunately, there was no school for such in Haiti, so he decided to emigrate to France. He went to France, traveling with a teacher, Monseigneur Keruzan, the Lord Bishop of Haiti. Joseph was an excellent and dedicated student and made good marks. France was a beautiful country with fine food and beautiful sites. Unfortunately, this couldn't hide the extreme racial prejudice rampant there. The dark-skinned Laroche had trouble procuring employment. He got a few jobs here and there, but his employers made excuses that he was too young and inexperienced. He was paid poorly and often treated shabbily.

There was one bright spot for Joseph in France, however -her name was Juliette LaFarge. The two met, started chatting, and almost immediately fell in love. They were married in March of 1908. The couple had two daughters, Simone (born in 1909) and Louise (born in 1910). Louise was born premature and was very frail. She suffered many medical problems in her early years. Joseph knew he needed to find a higher-paying job in order to help Louise and support his family better. The Laroches decided to return to Joseph's native Haiti. In March of 1912, Juliette discovered she was pregnant. Although the family had planned on moving later in the year, the pregnancy changed their plans and they decided to leave France as soon as possible. The Laroche family boarded the RMS Titanic at 7:00 PM on April 10, 1912. Their tickets were purchased by Joseph's mother, a welcome gift to the financially struggling Loroches. In a later discovered letter, written by Juliette Laroche to her father, dated April 11, 1912, she described the family's quarters: "The arrangements could not be more comfortable." She continued, "We have two bunks in our cabin, the two babies sleep on a sofa that converts into a bed." Towards the end of the letter, she wrote, "The sea is very smooth, the weather is wonderful." On the fateful morning of April 14th, 1912, the Laroches ate a hearty breakfast and joined many of the other Titanic passengers at Sunday church services. That night, a steward came into their cabin and told the Laroches to put on life jackets. The Titanic had suffered an accident. Joseph put everything they had of value, money and jewels, in his pockets. A steward guided the family to a lifeboat. Juliette, who spoke no English and was confused about what was going on, just followed her husband, who spoke English fluently and understood the steward. Joseph made sure his wife and daughters were safely put aboard a lifeboat, promising that he would join them later. Sadly, like so many of his male counterparts, Joseph was not to survive the disaster. Juliette and her two young girls all managed to escape a watery doom on the lifeboat. The three were eventually picked up by the Cunard Line steamship Carpathia. They were hauled up in bags. The trio of surviving Laroches returned to France and moved in with Juliette's father. They never went to Haiti as originally planned. A week before Christmas, Joseph Laroche, Jr. was born. In 1920, Joseph's mother paid a visit to her daughter-in-law and her grandchildren, but the visit didn't go well and she was never to see them again. In 1932, a journalist attempted to interview Juliette about the Titanic and that unforgettable failed voyage, but she refused to speak to him. Juliette's only known concession to recalling the Titanic was a reunion meeting with another survivor, a Miss Edith Russell. The reunion took place at the Claridge Hotel in Paris. After reminiscing together, the two became good friends and every year on April 15th, the anniversary of that unforgettable night, Juliette would receive a special gift from Edith, a bottle of perfume or a box of chocolates. Simone Laroche lived to the age of 64, dying in 1973. Juliette died at the age of 91 in 1980. Louise was the last Laroche survivor. She lived to the age of 87, passing away in January of 1998. Five people who were aboard the Titanic survived into the 21st century; all had been children at the time of the disaster.

Thank you for the wonderful article, I love reading about history and this was just great to hear about. I never knew about them and I am glad that I read it.
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Hello there.. Just to let you know, we did this research in 2001 since then I've spoken with Editor Dawn Trice of the Chicago's Tribune and it was published on APRIL 9th 2012 of the article "What happened to the Only Black Family" although she did not use as much information that You appently wrote, in which I too recovered throughout the years..! I appreciate the details cause I am one for exact info relating to this story being that it is My ANCESTORS we're talking about.

Joseph Philippe Lemercier LaRoche mother Anne Euzelie LaRoche was sister to my Great Grand Father seven generations back.

My father Robert Richard resembles so much likeness that when the article came out in the Ebony magazine in June 2000 my stepmother brought the article to her husband after a visit to the Hair Salon. She was reading the article while keeping herself busy under the blow dryer. After my father contacted me with this news it started my journey and interests in finding all that I could about this connection and later found myself in Paris meeting with Joseph Jr.s wife Claudine LaRoche..!

You can read story in the Tribune article or find me on Facebook and read from there!!

Marlie Alberts :D
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so why do America want to keep stories like this away from the public?, thanks for the write up, you've just made my pocket richer from a bet
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Thank you for the kind words, Dr. Chocolatex and anonymous coward.

Your words are much appreciated.

And huh, you make a good catch and I swear, I tried and tried to research Joseph Jr., and I couldn't find any mentions of his later life anywhere!

I too wonder what happened to him?????
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"France was a beautiful country with fine food and beautiful sites. Unfortunately, this couldn’t hide the extreme racial prejudice rampant there"

Dammit! He should have gone to the USA instead!
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