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Joseph Philippe Lemercier Laroche
May 26, 1886 to April 14, 1912

The fictional story of Shine (Explicit Language),  a black man who worked on the Titanic has been told in black communities for decades. However, it is not well known that a black man and his family were in fact passengers aboard the Titanic.

When Haitian born and French educated engineer, Joseph Laroche boarded the Titanic with his wife Juliette and their two young daughters, his initial plans were to live and work in France. He was denied employment because he was  black and decided to use steamship tickets to return to Haiti.

After learning that his wife was pregnant, Laroche chose to return to Haiti to get a good paying job and to be near his parents. He wanted to leave France before his wife’s pregnancy became too advanced for the trip. While preparing for the cruise on the French steamship La France, the family decided not to leave. The ship had strict guidelines against children dining with their parents. As a result, Laroche and his family transferred to the Titanic. Their tickets were good for second class fare on the British luxury liner.

They boarded the Titanic April 10, 1912, in Cherbourg, France just outside of Paris. For three days the family enjoyed the magnificent accommodations of the cruise ship. On April 14th, after an evening meal with his family, Laroche left them to join the other men in the second class smoking parlor. His wife Juliette and two daughters returned to their room.

At approximately 11:40 p.m., the Titanic hit an iceberg and gouged a hole in its front-right side. The frigid water poured in, flooding the lower decks. Laroche quickly gathered his pregnant wife and children and loaded them in a lifeboat. He put his money and valuables in his coat and draped it over his wife's shoulders.  That would be the
last time Juliette would see her husband. Joseph Laroche died along with some 1,500 other passengers when the Titanic sank to the ocean floor.

First L:
Joseph Laroche and family, public domain.  M: Monument to those lost at sea. R: Writing on front of monument.

Second L:
Full view of monument. The memorial to the Titanic is located on the SW Waterfront, off of Main Avenue, Washington, DC 20050. R: Writing on the back of the monument. 

Pictures taken October 19, 2008.  Top left picture Public Domain.


"Laroche's - Haitian Family's Dramatic Story on Board the Titanic." Titanic-Nautical.com, Web. 25 Sep. 2008.

"Shine on the Titanic." marilynnance.com/titanic/shine.html, Web. 6 Aug. 2012.

Hughes, Zondra. “What Happened to the Only Black Family on the Titanic.” Ebony Magazine Jun. 2000: 148-154. Print.

Site Visit
Memorial. S.W. Washington, DC. 19 Oct. 2008.
SUBMITTED: October 19, 2008. Updated August 6, 2012.
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