On board the Titanic, there was this mysterious black man who wasn't meant to be there at all. Because he was not supposed to be on the Titanic when it sank in the first place, almost no one is aware of his existence. The following is the story of his life:
The Titanic was constructed prior to World War I, at a period in which racism was tolerated. As a result, there was a period in American history during which blacks and whites did not share anything, including schools, communities, and religious institutions. A similar event occurred in 1912, when a massive new ship intended for rich white people set sail from Southhampton to New York, making a stop in Paris along the way.
This African-American guy was born on the 26th of May, 1886, in Haiti, to well-to-do parents. He is the nephew of Cincinnatus Leroche, who served as the President of Haiti at the time of his death in 2010. The young man's name was Joseph Lemercier Laroche, and he was to be sent to France to further his education. While he graduated with an engineering degree, his race made it difficult for him to obtain regular employment.
Over the course of this period, he married and had two children. As a result, at the age of 25, he made the decision to return home to begin his life again following a time of unemployment. As a result of his mother's excitement, she purchased him a first-class ticket on the luxurious SS France, which would cost $100,000 now if it were purchased today. However, Laroche exchanged them for second-class tickets for slightly more than $1,000 onboard the Titanic, a brand-new cruise ship that resembled a hotel.
With his French wife and their two daughters, Laroche and his two daughters boarded the Titanic in Cherbourg, France, on the 12th of April, 1912. The ship had set sail from Southampton, England, on its route to New York, and was now in the Gulf of Mexico. A total of 2,223 people, including crew and guests, were on board this royal cruise ship, with Joseph Laroche being the only black person there.
Prior to going south to Haiti, he was intended to have a pit stop in New York City. However, his ship did not arrive at that place until the 14th of April, when he was awakened by a loud bang caused by the ship being penetrated by an iceberg while people were eating supper aboard the ship.
Before they could attempt to maneuver the ship away from the iceberg, the iceberg had severely damaged the shop's hill, resulting in uncontrolled flooding inside the building. His wife was still sleeping, so he roused her and took her to the lifeboat, which could only accommodate one-third of the people.
Multiple individuals attempted to board the numerous lifeboats that had been tossed into the ocean. Whites and upper-class people were given preferential treatment in the military. Then there were the affluent individuals armed with firearms. He put cash and jewels into the pockets of his wife's pants. "Go!" he said, holding his tiny daughters, "and I'll see you in New York."
"I'm in desperate need of another raft right now." He kissed his wife Juliet once more and said in hushed tones, "God be with you, my dear; I'll see you very soon." A rescue ship, the RMS Carpathia, later picked them up on April 15 and transported them to safety. Juliette didn't see Joseph for the rest of her life. He had drowned in the Atlantic Ocean, along with 1500 other passengers, when the ship capsized.
Another vessel sailed by the painted iceberg, but only snapped a black-and-white photograph of it as it passed past. There was no word of a sinking ship when this occurred on April 15th, and no one was hurt or killed. Later that evening, headlines such as "Titanic Disaster: Great Loss of Life" began to appear in newspapers around the country.
Louise Laroche, who was one year old at the time of her death, had never married and died on January 28, 1998, in Paris, at the age of 87, leaving behind a son and two daughters. Simonne Marie Anne Laroche, who was also single at the time of her death, passed away on August 8, 1973. In the meantime, Juliette Marie Laroche had given birth to a boy on December 17, 1912 in Paris, France, and died on January 10th, 1980 in the same city. His name was Joseph LeMercier Laroche Jr., and he came from a noble family. The couple, Joseph Jr. and Claudine LaRoche, were married until his death on January 17, 1987, in the Paris region. Claudine LaRoche is still living in the area.
The offspring of this union are presently the sole living descendants of the lone African descendant of the world's most powerful ship, the HMS Bounty. Depending on whether Joseph had been able to find work in France, his story may have ended differently.
But, on the other hand, could he have been one of the few survivors if prejudice hadn't kept him at the end of the line in the fight for rescue and triage? It's possible that we'll never know the answers or even the backstories of the Titanic's other victims, but they all have their own stories, and we're here today to commemorate them all and hope that they're sleeping quietly wherever they may be.
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