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Joseph Laroche: What you need to know about the only black passenger on Titanic when it sank in 1912

Joseph Laroche was born on May 26, 1886 in Haiti. He was an educated engineer who studied in Paris. He was married to a white French woman named Juliette, and they with their two children were on the Titanic when it crashed into an iceberg in 1912. Joseph drowned like many others, but his family survived the shipwreck and arrived safely to New York City with others who had been rescued.

How he ended up on the Titanic

Joseph was highly educated; He spoke English, French and Haitian Creole fluently, and he was a trained engineer. However, he had trouble getting a well-paying job in France due to racial prejudice. Employers also made the excuse that he was too young and inexperienced.

According to 100 Amazing Facts About the Negro by Henry Louis Gates, Jr., when Joseph’s wife gave birth to their first two daughters, Simonne and Louise, he realized that he really needed to find a better paying job to support his family. So, in 1911, he and his wife, who had become pregnant again with their third child, decided to move to Haiti. At the time, Haiti was a developing nation with many jobs and business opportunities for engineers.

Their plan was to board the Titanic the following year, which would set sail in Southampton, England but also pickup passengers in Cherbourg, France before starting the long voyage to New York City, USA. From there, they could get to Haiti by traveling south to the Caribbean sea.

A change of plans

Sadly, on the night of April 14, 1912, the Titanic crashed into an iceberg in the Atlantic Ocean and slowly sank. Joseph’s wife and children were able to board one of the sixteen life boats. Joseph, however, like many other men who were separated from their families, did not survive and drowned. He was never seen again.

When his wife and children arrived to New York, she changed her mind about moving to Haiti, and decided to return back to France. Later, that same year, she gave birth to her and her late husband’s third child — a son — whom she affectionately named Joseph, Jr.

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