Reported by Nigel Boys
The sinking of the RMS Titanic on the fateful night of April 14 1912 and early morning hours of April 15 has been well documented since there were 892 crew members on board at the time and 1,320 passengers of which over 1,500 of them lost their lives.
There have even been successful movies and books about the famous disaster and her maiden voyage from Southampton, England to New York City that has been called one of the deadliest peacetime maritime disasters in history.
However, there has hardly been any mention of Joseph Laroche, a well-to-do, Haitian-born, black man who lost his life on the voyage, while he was travelling with his pregnant wife and their two young daughters, three-year-old Simonne and 21-month-old Louise. His wife, Juliette Lafargue, survived the disaster along with their two daughters.
However, after all these years, one of Laroche’s descendents, Marlie Alberts, is determined to shed light on the French-educated engineer and his interracial marriage to a woman of a high society France and the problems they faced because of racialism.
Alberts is actually related to Laroche, whose body was never found, because he was her seventh great-grandfather’s nephew as well as being the nephew of the 21st president of Haiti, Cinninatus LeConte.
According to Alberts, Laroche qualified as an engineer in France and therefore should have been able to get a good job to support his family. She adds, however, that due to racialism in the country at that time, the only work he was offered was at such low pay, he would have struggled to support his wife and children.
Laroche, who spoke English and French fluently, therefore decided to return to his home country to obtain a better position there and originally had been booked in a first class cabin on a French liner to make the journey. However, since racial issues again reared their ugly head for the family, they changed their tickets for second class on the Titanic.
When the interracial family boarded the Titanic on April 10, 1912, the interracial family was subjected to derogatory comments from other passengers.
According to Judith Geller, author of “Titanic: Women and Children First,” although the history of survivors of the disaster has been abundantly covered, there is no mention of an interracial family among the passengers.
However, Alberts aims to change all that in a three-part miniseries screenplay, which she hopes will gain the interest of various TV networks.