Spreading Good News (Post 573 – Were Any Black People on the Titanic?)

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GET INSPIRED and/or GET MOTIVATED and/or GET INFORMED and/or GET AWE-STRUCK and/or GET A BREAK FROM ALL THE NEGATIVE NEWS and to tell readers about our good, short books and our online store.












The Candle-Lighter Award and the Sunshine Award

Thank you very much to www.living4bliss.wordpress.com for presenting me with the Candle-Lighter Award and the Sunshine Award.  I truly appreciate the recognition!

Both of these awards are for a blog or post that is positive and brings light into the world.

I started this “Good News” blog in July 2010 because I was tired of and disgusted by all the negative news and information.  I wanted to give people positive news and information.  I’m having a great time looking for, receiving, and posting these pieces!  Stay tuned!!

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Whenever you see a blog or post you think brightens the world, give the blogger the Candle-Lighter Award.

Recipients can accept or decline. What does the recipient have to do?  Simply accept and nothing more!  You can paste this image on your blog, if you wish, and you are done!  If you wish to honor someone else with a Candle, pass it on, anytime and as many times and to as many people as you wish.

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We all should know more about the contributions that African-Americans have made in the fields of science and medicine, as well as art, music, the written word, sports, and just-everyday life.

“Black History Month,” (February) is over, but I will continue Spreading Good News about Black History on what I will call “Black History Tuesday.”

I hope you enjoy this piece!

BLACK HISTORY TUESDAY:  Were Any Black People on the Titanic?    

Source:  The Internet

In the blockbuster film Titanic, Leonardo DiCaprio’s role could have easily been played by a Black man—and it would have been historically accurate. In fact, the life story of Haitian native Joseph Phillippe Lemercier Laroche is far more intriguing than the movie’s lead character, but no one knew of his existence until recently. The silence about the stranger-than-fiction life story of the Titanic’s only Black passenger astonishes noted Titanic historian Judith Geller, author of Titanic: Women and Children First, who said, “It is strange that nowhere in the copious 1912 press descriptions of the ship and the interviews with the survivors was the presence of a Black family among the passengers ever mentioned.”

Until now, that is. Eighty-eight years (it’s now been 100 years) after the biggest ship disaster in history, and three years after release of the Titanic movie, the story of the only Black man to perish in the 1912 disaster is being revealed, thanks to the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry, host to the largest Titanic exhibit ever, and the Titanic Historical Society.

Laroche, who was born in Cap Haiten, Haiti, on May 26, 1889, came from a powerful family—Laroche’s uncle, Dessalines M. Cincinnatus Leconte, was president of Haiti. The Laroches had been prosperous since the 17th century when a French captain named Laroche (in Haiti on military duty) married a young Haitian girl.

At the age of 15, Laroche left Haiti to study engineering in Beauvais, France. Several years later, while visiting nearby Villejuif, he met Juliette Lafargue, the 22-year-old daughter of a local wine seller. Although impressed by the handsome young Laroche, Lafargue’s father, a widower, did not allow Laroche to marry his daughter until 1908, after he received his engineering degree.

A long way from his privileged lifestyle of Haiti, Laroche found France to be bleak and oppressive. Although Laroche was a cultured gentleman who spoke English and French fluently, and had an engineering degree, he couldn’t find a job because of his color. “It was a great disappointment to him that having earned his engineering degree in France he could not find employment there,” Geller says. “No matter how qualified he was, the blackness of his skin kept him from securing a position that paid his worth.”

Laroche’s family was growing and there were no opportunities for him to support them. The couple’s first daughter, Simonne, was born a year into the marriage, and their second daughter, Louise, was premature the following year and was sickly. They were living in Lafargue’s home, and the mounting medical bills for baby Louise were draining the wine seller’s profits.

Laroche, a proud and hardworking man, grew tired of having to rely on his father-in-law’s generosity and decided to return to Haiti, where he would be guaranteed work in engineering. Juliette Laroche was initially skeptical about abandoning her elderly father, but soon decided the move would be best for the family, especially for their ailing daughter. The family’s plan to travel to Haiti was hastened, however, by the news that Juliette Laroche was pregnant once again.

According to historian Geller, Laroche’s mother was so overwhelmed that her son was coming home with his new family that she purchased tickets on the French liner La France as a homecoming gift. When the couple realized that their children would not be permitted to dine with them on the liner, they exchanged their La France tickets for second-class reservations on the Titanic, which was the largest and most lavish ship built prior to that date. The style of the decor on the vessel ranged from Italian Renaissance to Georgian, and the cost of a first-class parlor suite was $4,350, equivalent to $50,000 today.

The Laroche family boarded the “palace of the sea” on Wednesday, April 10, 1912, at Cherbourg, France, for the scheduled five-day crossing to New York.

Never before had the richest people in the world flaunted their wealth so prominently. The first-class passengers constituted the creme de la creme of Anglo-American society. Collectively they were worth over $500 million, with the richest man on board, John Jacob Astor, having a net worth of $30 million alone. The second-class passengers were the middle-class business leaders and managers of the community; and third-class passengers (or steerage as they were called) were primarily English, Irish and Middle Eastern immigrants in search of a better life in America.

The Laroches did not have first-class reservations, but Laroche made it quite clear that his family was second-class to no one. The couple shared many of the spoils enjoyed by the first-class passengers. Their lounge was a large, spacious room with paneling in sycamore and was comparable to first-class accommodations on other sea liners of the day. Laroche, like other second-class passengers, also dined in the same saloon as the first-class passengers. Yet, the family’s second-class tickets did not shield them from the stares and insults of being the only multiracial family in a sea of upscale Whiteness, and it is almost certain that the Laroches were frowned upon because of Laroche’s Black skin and his interracial marriage to the olive-skinned Juliette, who had dark eyes and thick dark hair. The Laroche children were decidedly of mixed heritage. Fellow passenger Kate Buss told a correspondent in a letter: “There are two of the finest little Jap[anese] baby girls, about three or four years old, who look like dolls running about.”

According to a few survivor reports, the Laroches were a handsome couple who conversed freely with some of the other passengers. But their charm did not eliminate the racism that was rampant aboard the ship, especially among the crew members. According to Geller, the crew centered their attacks on the “Italians” (a generic term used for all of the darker-skinned passengers onboard). The White Star Line, the company that owned the Titanic, was forced later to issue a public apology for the derogatory statements made by the crew during the final moments on the doomed ship.

The Laroches apparently disregarded the racial insults and enjoyed their mini-vacation aboard the sea liner, dining and socializing with some of their fellow passengers. The couple had good reasons to look to the future—they were young, and in love, and had everything in the world to celebrate. Laroche was anticipating the birth of a son, who would be his namesake, and who would be raised in his homeland. It brought Laroche great joy and relief to know that his family would be entitled to a good life in Haiti, void of the racism and poverty that had plagued him so in France.

So the days passed, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, bringing the Laroches and their fellow passengers to the unspeakable horror of Sunday, April 14, 1912, the day of the most tragic event in maritime history.

The Laroches ate a hearty breakfast on that Sunday and attended church services with some of the other passengers. Later, some of the first- and second-class passengers strolled the decks, while others relaxed in the steamy Turkish Bath (a sauna). Well-dressed ladies sipped coffee and expensive teas in the Cafe Parisien, while the gentlemen confined themselves to fine wine and cigars in the smoking room. Little did the passengers know that at midnight, the Titanic dreamboat would become a monstrous, floating hell.

Some historians say the basic problem was the titanic-sized egos of the crew—they felt superior and invincible aboard the largest moving object built by man. In hindsight, the crew had every right to feel safe. After all, the White Star Line had issued a brochure for the Titanic which stated that the vessel was “designed to be unsinkable,” and Shipbuilder magazine said the ship was “practically unsinkable.”

Another problem was that the crew failed to take elementary precautions. On the morning of the disaster, Captain Smith canceled the lifeboat drill with the passengers and crew, which was customary after church services on ships. In fact, the Titanic crew had never gone through a lifeboat procedure. Worse, the liner only had enough lifesaving equipment for 1,178 of the 2,228 passengers and crew because, ironically, it had been decided that too much equipment would crowd the deck. The original plans called for 64 wooden lifeboats—that number was reduced to 16, so that passengers would have more room to stroll about the deck.

Simonne 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.

Juliette’s son, Joseph Jr., married, remained in France, and led a very rewarding life. The Laroche grandchildren also remained in France and currently uphold the family tradition of not discussing the Titanic disaster.

Five people who were aboard the Titanic survived into the 21st century; all had been children at the time of the disaster.


What are your thoughts on this piece?

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~ Joyce Fields



Joyce is an author who has written seven books.  If you enjoy this blog, you will, undoubtedly, enjoy all her books.  Her sister, Anita, is also an author.

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I visit these blogs and leave comments regularly.  I think you will enjoy them all!

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http://goss-coaching.com/author/gosscoaching  A professional writer and wellness coach helping people connect thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and action to create optimal health and a vibrant life.

http://www.thebirkineffect.com  Musings of a “want it all” 21st century woman

http://www.thesweetsensations.com  A baking, entertainment, and lifestyle blog.  Fantastic recipes and food photography, too!

http://www.pennilessparenting.com  A rich life on minimum wage.  Plus fabulous, healthful recipes!

http://www.rumpydog.com  I’m a dog with a unique perspective on human life.

http://www.davidkanigan.com/  Lead.Learn.Live.  David Kanigan:  Inspiration, Ideas & Information.

About Line of Serenity (Joyce Fields)

As a thought leader for today's generation, I choose to be part of the solution and am doing things that positively impact people's lives. In addition to being a happy, married (since 1967!) woman, sister, aunt, mother, grandmother, great grandmother, I have over 40 years' experience in "Corporate America": Stenographer, Secretary, Supervisor, Analyst, Office Manager, Executive Assistant. I am also a professional proofreader and the author of 10 books (mostly non-fiction)--http://www.GoodShortBooks.com).
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6 Responses to Spreading Good News (Post 573 – Were Any Black People on the Titanic?)

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