Tuesday, December 30, 2008
The Colored Family
There was a distinction on the Titanic, and the men and women of color were considered of lower standards during that time in England and France. However, that was not the case with the Laroche Family.
Joseph Phillipe Lemercier Laroche was born on May 26, 1885 in Haiti. His uncle was the president of the country, and that put him in a prominent state. He left in 1901 however, and went to Beauvais, France for school at age 15. Joseph got an engineering degree and married Juliette Lafargue in 1908. Together, they had a daughter named Simmone in 1909, and another daughter named Louise in 1910. Even though Joseph spoke French and English very well and had an engineering degree, his skin color porevented him from getting work. They weren't doing well, and were living in the basement of his father in law, who was a wine seller. Juliette got pregnant again in March of 1912, and decided to return to Haiti rather live on the charity of his father in law. Joseph's mother got them tickets on the LaFrance and paid 50,000 dollars for a parlor suite, but the coal strike made them transfer to the Titanic in 2nd class. Even though they were in 2nd class, they were allowed to eat with the 1st class passengers, and enjoy the 1st class luxuries. You can imagine the racial discrimination about him and his family, and they could have been alone the entire time, not knowing or getting to know anybody. At dinner, Kate Buss said that the children would run about before dinner. She described them as, "like Jap(anese) children". What probably also raised many eyebrows, was the Black man married to the olive colored woman. They enjoyed themselves though. The Titanic struck an iceberg on the evening of April 14, 1912 and was mortally wounded. The family was all all asleep when there came a knock at the door. Mr. Laroche answered the door, and was told that he and his family were to put on their lifejackets and go up on deck. Since this story was told as not to cause panic, they all did as the steward said and didn't worry about a thing. The men were not allowed into the lifeboats, so Joseph stayed behind while Juliette, Simmone, and Louise were put into possibly Boat No. 14. Unfortunately, Joseph died in the sinking. Mrs. Laroche and the children went back to France where she had a boy that she named, Joseph Jr. The family barely were surviving until sometime after WWI, when the White Star Line gave her 150,000 francs for her loses of items and clothing, and also pittance for the loss of her husband. The man that gave them this was Alexandre Millerand, an advocate of the White Star Line, and future president of France. She used some of the money to open a fabric dyeing place, and they did well. They kept in contact with fellow survivor, Edith Russell until her death. Juliette never remarried, and died at the age of 91 on January 10, 1980. Simmone die at the age of 64 on August 8, 1973. Louise later commemorated a plaque in 1995 at Cherbourg, next to the Normadic which the ship that carried them to the Titanic. It is the last White Star Line ship still to exist. Louise died in 1998. The family's story remained forgotten until 2000, when experts were able to piece together what happened. This was due to the family not wanting to talk about the disaster. I can't find out anything about Joseph Jr., but if he's alive, he could technically count as a survivor, although in the womb, he was still on the Titanic. The Laroche grandchildren don't talk about the sinking. Even though they never witnessed it, they don't talk about what their parents or grandparents had said about the disaster.