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#2793: Haitian family on Titanic (fwd)

From: E Vedrine <evedrine@hotmail.com>

[Corbett notes:  Folks, we had this story a number of months ago.
Howerver, since quite a few people sent it in again in the past couple of 
weeks since it re-appeared in a Chicago paper, I thought I'd run it 
once again for the relative new folks on the list.  Actually, it may
have been as long ago as when the movie was new.  That's a couple of
years ago.  My memory just isn't so very good.     Bob]

[ Forwarded by Forwarded by Ernesto Etienne


I have received the same story earlier in the week. A quick check with the" 
Titanic Historical Society" reveals that the Joseph family was on the boat. 
See website below for the passengers list.

Blake's Titanic Passengers List - R.M.S. Titanic Passenger List by Blake 


= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
>Joseph Laroche, a Haitian-born, French-educated engineer, had no intention 
>of traveling on the Titanic when he and his family left France in 1912.

Unable to find work in France because he was black -- and having discovered 
that his wife was pregnant with their third child -- Laroche decided to 
return to his native Haiti with first-class tickets aboard the French liner 
France. But just before departure, he learned that the ship did not allow 
children to dine with their parents.

As a result, Laroche, his wife Juliette, who was white, and their two young 
daughters quickly transferred to the Titanic, their first-class France 
tickets equivalent to second-class tickets aboard the British luxury liner.

The story of the only blacks on board the Titanic is being highlighted in 
the Titanic exhibit that opened Friday at the Museum of Science and 

They boarded the Titanic at Cherbourg, outside Paris, and for three days, 
the family enjoyed the ship's splendor. At a 9 p.m. seating April 14, the 
family dined together for the last time. Joseph Laroche retired to the 
smoking parlor with other men in second class. Juliette Laroche and their 
daughters, 3-year-old Simonne and 1-year-old Louise, returned to their 

Later that evening, Joseph Laroche felt the collision, ran back to his room 
and awoke his wife and daughters. As the mother and children were placed in 
a lifeboat on that frigid evening, Joseph Laroche draped his coat, stuffed 
with money and family valuables, across his wife's

"You will need it," he told Juliette Laroche, 22. "I will see you in New 
York. I must take another raft. God be with you."

Those were the last words Joseph Laroche spoke to his wife. The coat was 
stolen, but Juliette Laroche and the girls survived. Joseph Laroche, 26, the 
only black man aboard the ship, was one of 166
second-class passengers who died.

The Laroches weren't featured in the popular 1997 film "Titanic," but their 
place in this historic episode is being told in detail -- perhaps for the 
first time -- at the exhibit.

Two of the museum's "program interpreters," are portraying the couple, 
giving patrons an interactive history lesson about the Laroches throughout 
the exhibit's seven-month run. Other passengers being portrayed include 
socialite Margaret "Molly" Brown and Capt. Edward Smith.

"We found out through research that there was one black family on board," 
said Cheryl McDonald, manager of program interpretation. "In an attempt to 
show diversity, which the museum feels very strongly about, we decided that 
we wanted to show this."

"We're very excited about being the first to tell the story of the Laroches 
in an exhibition," added McDonald, who handpicked the program interpreters 
who portray them. "It's an important story and has just been a huge topic of 
conversation around the museum."

Judith Geller, author of "Titanic: Women and Children First," said the 
Laroche story is one of the more interesting among those from the doomed 
ship, which sank April 15.

"It is strange," she writes in her book, "that nowhere in the copious 1912 
press descriptions of the ship and the interviews with the survivors was the 
presence of a black family among the passengers ever mentioned."

Many attending a media preview of the exhibit Wednesday evening were 
startled by the sight of a well-dressed black couple strolling about in 
early 1900s style: the woman in a spectacular, floor-length red silk dress 
with a full floral skirt and matching handbag; the man in a natty 
three-piece suit, complete with a waist-chain pocket watch.

The Laroches -- played by Gregory Armstrong and Meredith Browder -- provide 
a history lesson about their lives and the fateful journey that would 
separate them forever.

"I am Joseph Laroche," begins Armstrong in a booming baritone. "I was born 
in Cap-Haitien, Haiti. I traveled to France to study engineering when I was 

Browder, as Madame Laroche, picks up the story, "My father was a widower who 
owned a wine store. I met my husband when I was 15, but my father would not 
allow me to marry him until he received his degree. We married in March 

They never break character. Juliette Laroche, who grew up in a prominent, 
privileged family, was accustomed to traveling first class and complained 
bitterly about the lack of adequate heating in the Titanic's second-class 
rooms; Joseph Laroche regrets that he "was unable to find fair wages" in 
France as an engineer, which forced the couple's hasty trip to Haiti, where 
his family was quite prosperous. Joseph Laroche worked on the building of 
one of the early Metro lines in Paris.

"We actually had not planned to leave France until 1913, but my wife's 
delicate condition made it necessary for us to leave early, while it was 
still safe for her to travel," said Armstrong as Laroche.

Armstrong and Browder, Chicagoans who are both black, said they were 
thrilled to have the opportunity to educate themselves, as well as the 
public, about this little-known story. French researcher Olivier  Mendez and 
the Massachusetts-based Titanic Historical Society are credited with first 
uncovering the information.

Cheryl Colbert, who attended the exhibit preview, said, "I had no idea there 
were people of color aboard the Titanic in any capacity. But it shows you 
that people of color are a part of everyone's history."

Although author and historian Geller said Juliette Laroche was white, 
Browder said she didn't think her portrayal was historically inaccurate.

"I've seen her picture, I've seen her features," Browder said. "She 
definitely looks like she could have been mixed to me." Either way, the 
presence of the Laroches in the museum's exhibit is part of what makes it 
special, observers said.

"I don't know why it hasn't gotten more attention. I find it a very unique 
story," said Geller, who attended Wednesday night's preview. "There are 
people within the Titanic community who have always known the story, but 
somehow it just never got out."

The Laroches, by survivor accounts, were a charming couple who socialized 
easily with other passengers. A mention of the couple's mixed-race daughters 
in a letter by passenger Kate Buss reads, "There are two of the finest 
little Jap(anese) baby girls, about three or four years old, who look just 
like dolls running about."

Transported on the rescue ship Carpathia, Juliette Laroche, whose feet were 
frozen, and her daughters arrived in New York, where they were treated at 
St. Vincent's Hospital. She later returned to France, where
Joseph Lemercier Laroche was born on Dec. 17, 1912.

Juliette Laroche never remarried and never spoke of the disaster except in 
letters to the Titanic Historical Society, said co-founder Karen Kamuda. 
Juliette Laroche died in 1980. Her daughters Never married.

The younger Joseph Laroche, who married and had three children, died in 
1987. ]
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