Joseph Laroche

Joseph Laroche

Today, 111 years ago, the RMS Titanic sank, killing Joseph Phillipe Lemercier Laroche, the lone black passenger.

The mother of Joseph Phillipe Lemercier Laroche was a Haitian woman who was descended from Jean-Jacques Dessalines, the first ruler of independent Haiti. The father was a white French army captain.

Dessalines M. Cincinnatus, Laroche’s uncle, led Haiti as president from 1911 to 1912.

Joseph Laroche acquired his early schooling from private tutors while growing up in Haiti’s affluent upper class.

He resolved to pursue an engineering career. In 1907, he earned his engineering certificate.

Laroche had two daughters with Juliette Marie Louise Lafargue after their marriage.

Due to racial discrimination, he had a lot of trouble finding and keeping a job in France, despite his brief employment on the Paris Metro line. The young family was consequently compelled to live with Juliette’s father.

Marie Louise, their youngest child, had health issues that put a strain on the family’s finances. By 1912, they were also expecting a third child.

Laroche made the decision to go back to Haiti because he thought his family’s political connections would ensure a good salary for his employment there.

Tickets for the family’s trip back to Haiti on board the La France were sent by Laroche’s mother. He was forced to swap their first-class tickets for second-class tickets on the R.M.S. Titanic due to the ocean liner’s regulation prohibiting children from dining with their parents in the dining room.

Joseph Laroche and his family boarded the Titanic on April 10, 1912. They dined in the same dining area as the ship’s first-class guests and luxuriated in its lavish amenities. Interracial marriages were frowned upon by passengers and crew, who gave them dirty looks and comments.

Following the sinking of the Titanic, the White Star Line issued a public apology for the bigotry that some of its crew members had shown toward Joseph Laroche and other non-white passengers.

Laroche took his wife and kids up to the boat deck as the ship sank early on April 15 and crammed his coat pockets with cash and jewelry.

His final words to his wife, as he encircled her in the coat, were, “Here, take this; you’re going to need it. I’ll order a new boat. God bless you. In New York, I’ll see you.

The Titanic disaster claimed the life of Joseph Laroche. His remains were never found. On December 17, 1912, his wife Juliette brought her daughters back to Paris, where she gave birth to their son, Joseph Lemercier Laroche.

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Joseph Laroche Biography

Haitian engineer Joseph Philippe Lemercier Laroche lived from 26 May 1886 to 15 April 1912. On the tragic RMS Titanic journey, he was one of only three passengers with known African descent (the other two were his children).

He boarded a lifeboat with his pregnant French wife, their two girls, and himself; they all survived, but he did not. Louise Laroche, Joseph’s daughter, was one of the RMS Titanic’s final survivors and lived from 2 July 1910 to 28 January 1998.

Based on his life, the three-act opera LaRoche by Atlanta composer Sharon J. Willis debuted on July 18 at the Callanwolde Fine Arts Center as a part of the 2003 National Black Arts Festival.

Joseph Laroche Early years

Joseph was born in Haiti’s Cap-Hatien. Joseph was transferred to Beauvais, France, to study when he was 15 years old. After earning his engineering degree, he wed Juliette Lafargue, a Frenchwoman. However, he struggled to get employment at the time because of racial discrimination. He decided to move back to Haiti with his expanding family since he was sick of relying on his father-in-law, a wine trader. He was hired as a math instructor by his uncle, Haitian President Cincinnatus Leconte.

Louise Laroche was born on 2 July 1910 in Paris, France, and Simonne Marie Anne Andrée Laroche was born in 1909 in Paris, France.

Voyage on Titanic

Late in 1912, when the family was set to depart France, Juliette learned she was expecting their third child. Joseph then made hasty plans for their departure so the baby might be born in Haiti.

For the family, Joseph’s mother booked first-class travel on the SS France. The Laroches were informed of the French Line’s rule requiring youngsters to stay in the nursery and not join their parents for dinner. They switched their tickets for a second-class ride on the RMS Titanic because they disapproved of this policy.

White Star Line boats took the passengers boarding from Cherbourg out to the ship onboard SS Nomadic because Titanic was too huge for the harbor at Cherbourg, France. On April 10, 1912, the family boarded the ship as second-class travelers.

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On April 14, at 11:40 p.m., just after hitting the iceberg, Joseph roused Juliette and informed her that an accident had occurred with the ship. All of their belongings were placed in his pockets as he and his wife carried their sleeping girls to the top deck of the ship. Juliette recalled a countess being in the lifeboat she and her daughters were in, although it is unknown for sure which lifeboat they actually boarded. It is likely that Juliette, Simonne, and Louise all made it to safety in lifeboat 8 or possibly lifeboat 14, as there was a countess, Nol Leslie, Countess of Rothes, aboard the ship who managed to escape. Joseph lost his life in the Titanic disaster, although his body was never found.

RMS Carpathia came to Juliette and her girls’ aid later that morning, on April 15. In burlap bags, the two young sisters were carried up to the deck. Juliette discovered that it was quite difficult to get linens on board the Carpathia that she could use as diapers for her kids. Since there were none extra, Juliette made do by sitting on napkins after each meal, hiding them, and making diapers from them when she got back to the cabin. On April 18, Carpathia arrived at New York City, New York. Juliette and her daughters made the decision to forego traveling to Haiti because no one was waiting for them. She instead went back to France’s Villejuif to be with her family.

The following month, the family came, and Juliette gave birth to her baby there. In memory of his deceased father, she gave her kid the name Joseph.


Louise, Joseph’s daughter, boarded Nomadic in March 1995 for the first time since it transported her family from Cherbourg, France, to Titanic in 1912. She was joined by Millvina Dean, another Titanic survivor. Louise was present when the Cherbourg Titanic Historical Society unveiled a stone plaque honoring those who boarded the ship from the city’s port.

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At the age of 87, Louise Laroche passed away on January 28, 1998. There were just six Titanic survivors left at the time of her demise.


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