A Haitian French Family Traveled Aboard Titanic
The Laroche Family
Daughters Louise and Simonne . Juliette and Joseph Laroche
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.
Cachet by Bevel
Daughters Louise and Simonne
Stamp was issued in 2000 as part of Celebrate the Century -1990's