Joseph Philippe Lemercier Laroche (May 26, 1886–April 15, 1912) was a Paris-educated Haitian engineer. He was the only known black passenger on the ill-fated voyage of the RMS Titanic.He got his pregnant French wife and their two daughters onto a lifeboat; they survived, but he himself did not.
At the age of 15, he was sent to Beauvais, France to study. After he graduated with an engineering degree, he married Frenchwoman Juliette Lafargue. However, he was unable to find work matching his qualifications due to the color of his skin in a racist society.Tired of living off of his wine seller father-in-law, he decided to return to Haiti with his growing family. His uncle, Cincinnatus Leconte, the President of Haiti,arranged a job for him as a math teacher. His mother purchased first class passage for them aboard the liner La France. When he and his wife learned of the Compagnie Générale Transatlantique‘s policy against children dining with their parents, they exchanged their tickets for a second class passage aboard the Titanic.
Laroche died in the sinking of the Titanic. His body was never recovered. His wife returned to Paris with her daughters Louise and Simonne Laroche and gave birth to their son, Joseph Lemercier Laroche. Laroche, a three-act opera based on his life, was an official part of the 2003 National Black Arts Festival and was scheduled to premiere at the Callanwolde Fine Arts Center on July 18.Joseph’s daughter, Louise Laroche (2 July 1910 – 28 January 1998) was one of the last remaining survivors of the sinking of the RMS Titanic on April 15, 1912. It is believed that she, her sister and her father, Joseph Philippe Lemercier Laroche, were the only people of African descent aboard.
Louise Laroche was born on July 2, 1910 in Paris, France to Joseph Philippe Lemercier Laroche and his wife, Juliette Lafargue. She was preceded in birth by a sister Simonne Marie Anne Andrée Laroche in 1909.
Although Louise’s father had a degree in engineering and was nephew to the then President of Haiti (Cincinnatus Leconte), his race prevented him from finding steady employment in a racist environment. Given this, he decided to move his family back to his native Haiti. The family planned to leave in late 1912, but Juliette discovered she was pregnant for a third time, and Joseph decided to bump up their travel arrangements so the child could be born in Haiti. The family originally had plans to travel on the France, but the ship’s policy stipulated that children were required to remain in the nursery and were not permitted to eat with their parents, a policy that the Laroches did not like. They instead transferred their tickets to sail on the Titanic.
Louise and her family boarded the Titanic at Cherbourg, France on April 10, 1912 as second-class passengers. Because of Titanic’s size, she could not fit in Cherbourg’s harbour. White Star Line tenders had to transport passengers out to Titanic, and the Laroche’s were transported aboard the SS Nomadic.
Shortly after the Titanic struck the iceberg at 11:40 p.m. on April 14, Joseph woke Juliette and told her that the ship had suffered an accident. He put all of their valuables in his pockets, and he and his wife carried each of their sleeping daughters to the ship’s deck. It is not known for sure which lifeboat Juliette and her daughters escaped in, although Juliette remembered a countess being in her lifeboat. There was a countess on board the ship, Noël Leslie, Countess of Rothes, who escaped in lifeboat 8, so it is likely that Juliette, Simonne and Louise all escaped the ship on this lifeboat. Joseph died in the sinking and his body, if recovered, was never identified.
Later in the day on April 15, Juliette and her daughters were picked up by the rescue ship RMS Carpathia. Louise and her sister were hauled up to the its deck in burlap bags. On board the Carpathia, Juliette found it very hard to get linens which she could use as diapers for her children. Since there were none to spare, Juliette improvised and at the end of each meal she would sit on napkins and conceal them and once back in the cabin, make diapers out of them. The Carpathia arrived in New York City, New York on 18th, but there was no one to meet Juliette and her daughters, so Juliette decided not to continue to Haiti, but instead return to her family in Villejuif, France. The family returned in May 1912, and it was there that Juliette gave birth to her son who she named Joseph, in honor of his father
In March 1995, Louise stepped aboard the Nomadic for the first time since 1912 when it carried her family to the Titanic from Cherbourg, France. Louise was joined by fellow Titanic survivor Millvina Dean. That same year, Louise was present as the Titanic Historical Society dedicated a stone marker in Cherbourg commemorating Titanic passengers who sailed from its port.
Louise Laroche died on 28 January 1998 at the age of 87. Her death left eight remaining survivors. – SOURCE
Titanic survivor Louise Laroche at age 87 in 1997, shortly before her death. Along with her sister and her mother, she survived the Titanic disaster of April 15, 1912 which took the life of her father, Joseph Phillipe Lemercier Laroche of Haiti, who is believed to have been the ship’s only Black passenger.
Louise was almost two years old when she boarded the ill-fated ship. After being rescued and sent to New York aboard the Carpathia, Louise and her family returned to their native France, where they lived for the rest of their lives.
To Learn More About The Family, Click Here For A Gripping Article & Interview Of Louise Laroche and her family.