Acts of Kindness
The little known history of the only black man to board the Titanic
Joseph Philippe Lemercier Laroche was a 25-year-old Haitian engineer who boarded the ship with his wife and two daughters.
Laura Shallcross
07.30.21

Unless you’re really into history, you probably don’t know much about the Titanic beyond the 1997 movie.

The movie itself probably isn’t very historically accurate, as there’s a lot we don’t know about what happened on that fateful night.

The clearest information we have comes from the stories of survivors who lived through the tragedy.

DRVMX/ Flickr
Source:
DRVMX/ Flickr

706 people survived the sinking of the Titanic, and many of them have been given their spot in the limelight as a result.

But it’s important to remember the 1,500 passengers and crew members who didn’t make it out – including the only black man on board.

Charisse Davis Productions/ YouTube
Source:
Charisse Davis Productions/ YouTube

Joseph Philippe Lemercier Laroche, a Haitian engineer, boarded the Titanic with his wife and two daughters.

Like many on the ship, Laroche was looking for work. He decided that traveling overseas would provide him with the best job prospects.

Having been born to an elite family, with one of his ancestors being the leader of the Haitian Revolution and the first leader of free Haiti, Laroche had some big shoes to fill.

Charisse Davis Productions/ YouTube
Source:
Charisse Davis Productions/ YouTube

His mother decided not to bring him up in Haiti; instead taking him to France to give her son the finest education.

As an adult in France, Laroche married a white French woman, named Juliette. The pair had two children very quickly, and when early 1912 arrived, Juliette discovered that she would be having another.

Charisse Davis Productions/ YouTube
Source:
Charisse Davis Productions/ YouTube

Despite Laroche’s fine education, he was unable to find work because of the racial discrimination in the country at the time.

Though the family had planned to travel at the end of the year, Juliette’s pregnancy hastened plans.

Originally, Laroche booked for his family to travel first class aboard a ship named La France. But at the last minute, he switched up his plans and decided on second class tickets for the Titanic.

Charisse Davis Productions/ YouTube
Source:
Charisse Davis Productions/ YouTube

This decision was made largely because of the strict dining rules on La France, which prevented children from eating with their parents during the trip.

Being an interracial family, the Laroches had experienced their fair share of racial abuse.

It was no different aboard the Titanic – but the family had much bigger problems coming their way.

Charisse Davis Productions/ YouTube
Source:
Charisse Davis Productions/ YouTube

Most of us are familiar with this part of the story: just before midnight on April 14th, 1912, the Titanic collided with an iceberg.

Passengers needed to get to the lifeboats with minutes to spare.

Laroche made sure his wife two children were aboard one of the boats, where they were picked up by a nearby ship that responded to the distress call.

Wikimedia
Source:
Wikimedia

As for Laroche, the brave father was never reunited with his family.

Though his body was never recovered, it is assumed that Laroche was one of the 1,500 victims who went down with the ship.

The young man, just 25 years of age, had his whole life ahead of him. But he had saved his family, and that was certainly something to be remembered by.

Charisse Davis Productions/ YouTube
Source:
Charisse Davis Productions/ YouTube

Juliette went on to become an entrepreneur, and it’s only thanks to an interview given by her daughter, Louise, that we know about the family’s devastating experience.

You can learn more about this important story in the video below.

Please SHARE this with your friends and family.

Share this article
By Laura Shallcross
hi@sbly.com
Laura Shallcross is a contributor at SBLY Media.
Advertisement
Advertisement