There was a Haitian man on the Titanic
There was a Haitian man on the ship!
His uncle was President of Haiti!
Joseph Phillippe Lemercier Laroche was the only black man, a Haitian man, to perish in the Titanic; that’s after he saved his wife and kids. Laroche was born in Cap Haitian, Haiti , on May 26, 1889.
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.”
The story of this interracial family was not known until 2000, three years after the movie’s release, when the Chicago Museum of Science & Industry and the Titanic Historical Society revealed the information as part of a Titanic exhibit.
Joseph Laroche was born into a powerful family. His uncle, Dessalines M. Cincinnatus Leconte, was the president of Haiti . When Joseph Phillippe Lemercier was fifteen, he left Haiti to study engineering in Beauvais , France . Several years later, he met Juliette Lafargue, the 22-year-old daughter of a local wine seller. The two eventually married.
Despite having an engineering degree, Joseph’s skin color left him unable to find employment in France . The Laroches decided to return toHaiti and booked second-class reservations on the Titanic. After the ship struck an iceberg, Joseph loaded his wife and children onto a lifeboat and he went down with the ship. His body was never recovered.
Shortly before Christmas of that year, Juliette Laroche gave birth to their son, Joseph Laroche Jr.
Juliette never remarried.