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The lone black passenger of the Titanic and his family adds another interesting facet to the story of the historic, ill fated cruise.

On April 10, 1912, Joseph Laroche, accompanied by his wife Juliette and two young daughters, took a train from Paris to Cherbourg, France, where they boarded the ill-fated R.M.S. Titanic, the largest passenger ship in the world.

From documents and histories, we can piece together facts about Laroche, who, in his lifetime, received a good education, but, like many of his counterparts, encountered racism:

He was born on May 26, 1886 in Cap Haitien, Haiti on the northern coast of the country, its second-largest city. Today the city is home to the second-largest airport in the country and attracts many tourists.

Laroche came from a rich lineage, as his uncle, Cincinnatus Leconte, was once president of the Caribbean island. Leconte’s great-grand-father was an African slave who served as Haiti’s first president in its then newly-independent state. He was addressed as “Emporer Jacques I of Haiti.”

In 1901, 15-year-old Laroche left home with dreams of becoming an engineer. According to the Titanic Historical Society (THS,) located in Indian Orchard, Mass., he traveled to Beauvais, France with teacher Monseigneur Kersuzan, the Lord Bishop of Haiti.

On a trip to Villejuif, France, Joseph met Juliette Marie Louise Lafargue, an upper-middle-class French woman three years his junior and daughter of a wine-seller. The two fell in love and married at the Lafargue home in March 1908.

By then Joseph had graduated with his certificate. However, racial discrimination in the country hindered a brown-skinned person from finding adequate work. The newlywed and father of two was able to find work, but was not paid the salary someone of his caliber deserved, according to the THS.

By March 1912 Louise was pregnant with the couple’s third child, leaving them no choice but to move to Haiti, where a young engineer of any race was sure to be in high demand. Laroche’s mother bought first-class tickets for her son’s family to travel on the French ship, Le France. However, the couple fatefully traded the tickets for Titanic tickets when they learned that children could not dine with parents for meals.

The family boarded the Titanic on the evening of April 10, 1912, at Cherbourg, France. According to the museum exhibit, the family spent most of their time enjoying the British luxury liner. But some crew members did make disparaging comments to Laroche and his daughters, believing they were Italian or Japanese because of their darker skin.

On the night of April 14, Laroche was in the smoking parlor with other men when he felt the ship hit the iceberg. He ran back to his room to check on his wife and daughters.

When the ship began to sink, Laroche placed the family’s money and valuables in a coat and draped it around his wife’s shoulders. (The coat was later stolen.) He then placed his family in a lifeboat and stayed on the ship helping get other women and children to safety.

He told his wife he would meet her in New York. But he didn’t survive and his body was never found.

The information from the above post was taken directly from the two sources below.

Originally posted to aaaaaa5a on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 09:14 PM PDT.

Also republished by History for Kossacks, Black Kos community, and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (182+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Horace Boothroyd III, uciguy30, Gooserock, ORDem, CaliSista, kerflooey, Tonedevil, Liberal Granny, khloemi, Unitary Moonbat, dotsright, markdd, Cassandra Waites, Shockwave, palantir, Boris Godunov, CanisMaximus, Eikyu Saha, OLinda, Trix, owlbear1, Denise Oliver Velez, IDTT, myboo, MKSinSA, beka, marleycat, JoanMar, parsonsbeach, Emerson, skyounkin, wide eyed lib, TomFromNJ, koosah, blueintheface, bumbi, Margd, copymark, politik, annetteboardman, Statusquomustgo, Lefty Ladig, hnichols, Librarianmom, Shadowmage36, alasmoses, Lily O Lady, a2nite, Florene, Cedwyn, nomandates, madmsf, quarkstomper, rickeagle, offred, Zwoof, revsue, phrogge prince, Carol in San Antonio, DavidHeart, Texknight, mconvente, terabytes, readerwriter, gizmo59, la urracca, third Party please, AlyoshaKaramazov, blw, BachFan, jilikins, signals, kevinwparker, Mary Mike, Brooke In Seattle, ybruti, Senor Unoball, blue jersey mom, Black Kos, George Pirpiris, Sun Tzu, doroma, bythesea, GenXangster, confitesprit, US Blues, TheHalfrican, dmhlt 66, milkbone, jabney, strangedemocracy, young voter, Vita Brevis, greycat, seefleur, daveygodigaditch, Spirit of Life, raster44, legendmn, mod2lib, hopeful, dotdash2u, Its a New Day, MKinTN, prettygirlxoxoxo, doingbusinessas, RosyFinch, murphy, pat bunny, Onomastic, sagansong, fumie, never forget 2000, wv voice of reason, raina, science nerd, Pager, wishingwell, revbludge, entrelac, Nowhere Man, saluda, lineatus, Lefty Coaster, Russgirl, sebastianguy99, smoothnmellow, LaughingPlanet, Aspe4, tegrat, kathny, Tod, archkcmo, Little Flower, Mayfly, Clytemnestra, suzq, MJ via Chicago, sawgrass727, bartcopfan, ColoTim, MA Liberal, Ducktape, EclecticCrafter, Angie in WA State, Ian S, Isara, Vince CA, ogre, DruidQueen, raincrow, luckylizard, JayRaye, profundo, Friendlystranger, grollen, maf1029, GoldnI, IreGyre, cinnamon68, DvCM, paintitblue, KayCeSF, Carbon, SherwoodB, Loonesta, john07801, janl1776, pengiep, bnasley, kaliope, moiv, JVolvo, Temmoku, Munchkn, Larsstephens, thomask, PoliticalJunkessa, trivium, PinHole, alnep, splashy
    •  Not to make light of the tragedy (21+ / 0-)

      but there was one black passenger that was not allowed on the Titanic. Jack Johnson, heavyweight champion of the world.

      This is a long song, but give a listen.

      Well, I been around the world, and I've been in the Washington Zoo. And in all my travels, as the facts unravel, I've found this to be true.... ...they don't give a f^ck about anybody else

      by Zwoof on Tue Apr 10, 2012 at 06:39:00 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Talk about one of the few times in a black man's (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Tonedevil, raincrow

        life where racism turns out to do you a favor...

        I can just about forgive the Brits for starting our revolutionary war and burning DC to the ground during the war of 1812 for giving us Led Zeppelin.

        by Pager on Tue Apr 10, 2012 at 09:54:15 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Good song, but total myth. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        There's no evidence Johnson was denied passage on the Titanic, or even tried to book it, or was even in Europe/Britain at that time.  

        The WSL did not prohibit passage to people based on race/ethnicity.  The presence of Laroche and several other ethnic passengers proves this.

        •  How do you know this? (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Tonedevil, raincrow, Larsstephens

          "No, I'm being judged against the ideal. Joe Biden has a saying: 'Don't judge me against the Almighty, judge me against the alternative." --President Barack Obama, 12/11/11

          by smoothnmellow on Tue Apr 10, 2012 at 10:46:57 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Know what? (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Dracowyrm, JVolvo

            That there's no evidence for the Johnson story?  Because there isn't any evidence for it.  

            Know that non-whites weren't barred from passage on the Titanic?  By the presence of Laroche and several other non-white passengers, whose presence on board is well-documented.

            Again, why would the WSL allow Laroche and several other non-white people on board but deny passage to Johnson?  Do you have any actual evidence that the WSL denied passage on its ships to non-whites?

            •  Well, I would think (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              that if you are going to make such a declarative statement the WSL did not prohibit passage based on any factors, then you should be able to demonstrate the basis of your statement, that's all.

              Saying non-white doesn't necessarily mean that specific groups would be barred or not.

              Did the WSL issue a statement to this effect?

              "No, I'm being judged against the ideal. Joe Biden has a saying: 'Don't judge me against the Almighty, judge me against the alternative." --President Barack Obama, 12/11/11

              by smoothnmellow on Tue Apr 10, 2012 at 11:46:27 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  So you need a statement from the WSL (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                verifying a policy that they didn't bar a particular race from booking passage on their ships?  And the actual presence of several non-white races on board as passengers isn't sufficient?

                Do you have any idea how absurdly unreasonable that is to expect for a company that ceased to exist in the 1930s, well before many of the notions we have about corporate attention to demographic issues existed?

                I'm going to put the burden of proof on you, since I believe the existence of non-white passengers on the Titanic proves the WSL didn't bar non-whites from passage.  Do you have any evidence that the WSL prohibited non-white passengers?  Keep in mind, a folk song is not evidence.

                •  Yes. (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:

                  Because if you are going to speak with a certain authority that you know for certain, then the proof is ... well, the proof.

                  "No, I'm being judged against the ideal. Joe Biden has a saying: 'Don't judge me against the Almighty, judge me against the alternative." --President Barack Obama, 12/11/11

                  by smoothnmellow on Tue Apr 10, 2012 at 12:06:22 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  I sincerely hope (3+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    ogre, Dracowyrm, maf1029

                    you're not in any way involved in academics or education, because I'd hate to think you were influencing students with your ideas of what constitutes evidence and the notion that we can believe something to be true until evidence proves otherwise, which is fundamentally backwards.

                    •  Did you know that Ambrose Bierce was aboard, too? (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      Boris Godunov

                      Of course, there's no evidence for it, but the WSL never issued a statement that he wasn't.

                    •  What does my profession have to do (0+ / 0-)

                      with your answering the question?

                      Nothing.  Stop deflecting.

                      "No, I'm being judged against the ideal. Joe Biden has a saying: 'Don't judge me against the Almighty, judge me against the alternative." --President Barack Obama, 12/11/11

                      by smoothnmellow on Tue Apr 10, 2012 at 03:13:41 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  It was just a sincere hope that you're not (0+ / 0-)

                        in a position to be influencing impressionable minds with your atrocious logic and bad thinking.

                        The fact that I or anyone needs to point out the utter stupidity of believing something unfounded to be true until presented evidence to the contrary is just... well, I'd say amazing, but in this day and age...

              •  How can he prove a negative? (0+ / 0-)

                "What Washington needs is adult supervision" - Barack Obama

                by auron renouille on Wed Apr 11, 2012 at 12:40:56 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

            •  In fact, there is evidence in the opp. direction. (5+ / 0-)

              In Edwardian times, black people weren't viewed as any worse than Japanese, Arabs, etc., all of whom were aboard RMS Titanic.

              There is no evidence that Jack Johnson ever tried to buy a ticket on the ship.

      •  I have been looking for that since forever! Thanks (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Zwoof, Temmoku

        If you think you're too small to be effective, you've never been in the dark with a mosquito.

        by marykk on Tue Apr 10, 2012 at 12:00:25 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  You Tube has everything (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          marykk, Temmoku

          which means they will soon take it all away from us.

          Well, I been around the world, and I've been in the Washington Zoo. And in all my travels, as the facts unravel, I've found this to be true.... ...they don't give a f^ck about anybody else

          by Zwoof on Tue Apr 10, 2012 at 03:42:23 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  But only if you know your search terms (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            I recall hearing this piece forty some years ago.  they used to play it on the alternative radio station, very late on Saturday nights.  I never caught the name of the artist, and have described it many times but couldn't ever find it.  thank you.

            If you think you're too small to be effective, you've never been in the dark with a mosquito.

            by marykk on Tue Apr 10, 2012 at 04:44:17 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  This place is like the ER on a Saturday night (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              Sooner or later, you'll see everything.  :)

              "Texas is going to shrink government until it fits into a woman's uterus." -- Texas State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte

              by moiv on Tue Apr 10, 2012 at 07:50:47 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

  •  Interesting... (13+ / 0-)

    I have a Leadbelly(Huddie Ledbetter) record with the song Titanic.  One of the verses is;
    Jack Johnson want to get on board
    Captain says I ain't hauling no coal
    The liner notes indicate there was some feeling among black people that the sinking was due to the insult to Jack Johnson. I am not even sure that happened, but it always seemed plausible to me.

    This makes about as much sense as Mike Huckabee on mescaline. - Prodigal 2-6-2008

    by Tonedevil on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 09:53:48 PM PDT

    •  The Ballad of the USS Titanic (9+ / 0-)

      Under SOPA, you could get 5 years for uploading a Michael Jackson song. That's one more year than the doctor who killed him.

      by Charles CurtisStanley on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 10:27:51 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  No, it didn't happen. (8+ / 0-)

      It's just a legend.  As LaRoche proves, as long as one could pay for the ticket, race didn't bar one from boarding the ship.

      •  I thought of that... (6+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        uciguy30, MKSinSA, Cedwyn, raster44, Pager, JVolvo

        as I read the article.  Mr. LaRoche successfully securing passage does make it harder to believe they would turn down Mr. Johnson. Never really investigated very deeply, guess I didn't want to make a lie of one of my last teenage myths.  

        This makes about as much sense as Mike Huckabee on mescaline. - Prodigal 2-6-2008

        by Tonedevil on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 11:47:43 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Not so unlikely (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        They would have thought of him as French. Plus, obviously, he and his children were light enough to pass for some other ethnicity. The question probably never even came up.

        •  photo of the family... (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Pager, operculum, Tonedevil, suzq

          ...and a few more details can be seen here...


          •  According what was quoted (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            by the diarist as the comments made by the crew the "races" they referred to were Japanese and Italian. At that time Italians were considered racially suspect particularly those of southern Italy and Sicily.

            And looking at his picture he could have easily been of that derivation.

            •  And no doubt they were most likely (0+ / 0-)

              booked 3rd and 4th class.  

              "No, I'm being judged against the ideal. Joe Biden has a saying: 'Don't judge me against the Almighty, judge me against the alternative." --President Barack Obama, 12/11/11

              by smoothnmellow on Tue Apr 10, 2012 at 11:59:29 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Ummm... 4th class? (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Boris Godunov

                Are you making a joke?

              •  No, they were not. (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                ...from the link I provided above...

                ...bought the family tickets on the ship La France, but that ship liner had a strict policy on children of passengers, and with Marie Louise needing constant attention because of her medical problems (she was born prematurely), Joseph Philippe chose to transfer his tickets for second class tickets on the RMS Titanic ship. They traveled from Paris to Cherbourg, where they boarded the ship, with the intention of boarding in New York, from where they would be well on their way to Haiti.

                As an interracial couple, the two experienced a lot of harassment and taunts from the crew and passengers, so much so that The White Star Line, the company that owned the RSM Titanic, had to issue a public apology later for the behavior of their crew and passengers towards the Lemercier Laroche family.

                •  Er, I'd be very dubious of that site's claims. (0+ / 0-)


                  As an interracial couple, the two experienced a lot of harassment and taunts from the crew and passengers, so much so that The White Star Line, the company that owned the RSM Titanic, had to issue a public apology later for the behavior of their crew and passengers towards the Lemercier Laroche family.
                  I'm comfortable saying that's a fat load of bull.  I can find no indication of such a "public apology."  Does anyone think that, after enduring such an enormous disaster, that A) Mrs. Laroche would have lodged such a relatively petty complaint to the WSL, and B) that the WSL would have bothered publicly addressing it while dealing with the aftermath of the sinking, particularly in an era where such behavior (if those claims were even true) was commonplace?  I doubt it very much.
                  •  Dubious yourself to your heart's content... (0+ / 0-)

                    ...tho' perhaps you'd google "white star apology to laroche" and find that's not the only site that makes the claim.


                    •  And what is the source for the claims? (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:

                      The sites are reporting the same claim, almost verbatim, so it looks like they've been copying from a single source.  What is it?  Note that your first link provides link to sources for some of its material, but not that particular assertion.

                      Laroche filed suit with the WSL over the loss of property, as did most passengers, and the WSL, as with all other passengers, settled out-of-court for a sum of money.  I see no indication whatsoever that the settlement involved some sort of public apology.  Why would it?  Again, the alleged attitudes of the crew cited would have been di rigeur in that day and age.  The notion of corporate-issued apologies for such behavior is very modern, not something that would have happened at the turn of the 20th century.

        •  The Johnson story is pure legend. (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Tonedevil, Ducktape, Dracowyrm, JVolvo

          There's no evidence it ever happened.  There's not even any indication Johnson was in England/Europe at the time.  

          And again, we have no indication blacks would have been barred from sailing on the Titanic.  Laroche's presence as a passenger is prima facie evidence that this wasn't the case.  The presence of numerous other ethnic minority passengers on board (Japanese, Chinese, Middle Eastern) also shows that there wasn't any policy of barring passengers based on race.  

          Keep in mind, the British did not have the segregationist racial attitudes that Americans did at that time.  

          •  Once again, it would help (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Tonedevil, Larsstephens

            if you had references to base this on.

            "No, I'm being judged against the ideal. Joe Biden has a saying: 'Don't judge me against the Almighty, judge me against the alternative." --President Barack Obama, 12/11/11

            by smoothnmellow on Tue Apr 10, 2012 at 10:52:02 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  What? (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Ducktape, JVolvo

              What "references" do I need to provide?

              That there's no evidence the Johnson story happened?  How do I prove a negative?  Isn't the burden of proof on those asserting it did happen (and no, a song is not evidence).

              The presence of non-white passengers on board the Titanic is proven by this very diary!  

              •  My point exactly. (0+ / 0-)

                You can't.  But what you can say is that it is your conclusion.  Big difference.  I think my point to you is that you don't know definitively what policies the company had with respect to this issue.

                And Boris, that's not necessarily proof of a policy barring blacks in particular as some Europeans and Asians of that time had darker skin.  And some blacks were fair enough during those days to 'pass as' something else -- meaning that, in my opinion, assumptions would be made that a person was just from a region of Europe where their skin was darker.

                Not necessarily 'non-white', as you say.

                "No, I'm being judged against the ideal. Joe Biden has a saying: 'Don't judge me against the Almighty, judge me against the alternative." --President Barack Obama, 12/11/11

                by smoothnmellow on Tue Apr 10, 2012 at 11:54:24 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  to be clear and specific (0+ / 0-)

                  blacks of African origin.

                  "No, I'm being judged against the ideal. Joe Biden has a saying: 'Don't judge me against the Almighty, judge me against the alternative." --President Barack Obama, 12/11/11

                  by smoothnmellow on Tue Apr 10, 2012 at 12:00:18 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                •  Unless you can provide proof (0+ / 0-)

                  that the WSL had a policy to bar certain non-white races while they clearly allowed other, I see no reason to engage in a discussion/argument with you over it, since it's clear that "evidence" isn't your concern.

                  •  I'm asking a question. (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:

                    It would appear to me since you spoke with such certainty and authority on the subject matter, then you could lead me to information that makes you so sure, that's all.

                    "No, I'm being judged against the ideal. Joe Biden has a saying: 'Don't judge me against the Almighty, judge me against the alternative." --President Barack Obama, 12/11/11

                    by smoothnmellow on Tue Apr 10, 2012 at 12:08:23 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  I spoke with certainty that the Johnson (2+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      annetteboardman, JVolvo

                      story is a myth.  That's based on the fact that there is utterly no evidence it's true, and the folk song about it is full of completely untrue things beyond that.  This is also the overwhelming consensus of historians

                      I speak with reasonable certainty that the WSL didn't bar any particular race from booking passage, based on the fact that multiple non-white ethnicities are represented on the passenger list and that there is zero evidence showing otherwise.  It is completely idiotic to assume they had a policy of racial discrimination to one particular ethnicity when there is zero evidence showing it did.  Scholarship works just the opposite of what you're suggesting.

                      •  No evidence does not equate to (0+ / 0-)

                        it being a fact.  No evidence just means no evidence to this point.  

                        "No, I'm being judged against the ideal. Joe Biden has a saying: 'Don't judge me against the Almighty, judge me against the alternative." --President Barack Obama, 12/11/11

                        by smoothnmellow on Tue Apr 10, 2012 at 03:19:08 PM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  So you again fall into the Creationist (1+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:

                          mode of declaring, "Absence of evidence isn't evidence of absence!"

                          Which is a completely useless, fallacious and, frankly, stupid method of thinking.  It only serves one purpose, which is to allow you to believe what ever you wish, even if there's no evidence to support it, because you just want to.  In a reality-based community such as this, it's not hard to see why such an attitude is not just absurd, it's insidious.

                          But by all means, continue to demand that someone has to prove something doesn't exist in order for you not to believe it.  

                        •  Sec Def Rumsfeld? Is that you? Remember this (1+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:
                          Boris Godunov

                          chestnut: just because didn't find any WMD's in Iraq does not mean there are no WMD's in Iraq.  

                          Were you agreeing with Rumsfeld's bullshit back then or did you see through it as a pathetic logical fallacy?

                          To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. - Theodore Roosevelt 1918

                          by JVolvo on Tue Apr 10, 2012 at 08:06:31 PM PDT

                          [ Parent ]

                    •  Do you also believe in the Easter Bunny? (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:

                      After all, there is no evidence for that, either.

                •  You need a logic class. (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Boris Godunov, JVolvo

                  You don't believe something for which there is no evidence. That is irrational. You believe things on the basis of evidence, not its absence.

                  And Joseph LaRoche was a very dark black man, as it happens. He wasn't "passing" for anything.

      •  Not so fast. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        If they thought LaRoche was a dark skinned European or Asian, that's also a possible reason he got on.

        "No, I'm being judged against the ideal. Joe Biden has a saying: 'Don't judge me against the Almighty, judge me against the alternative." --President Barack Obama, 12/11/11

        by smoothnmellow on Tue Apr 10, 2012 at 10:49:57 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Why would the British bar black people (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Ducktape, annetteboardman, JVolvo

          from getting on board, but have no problem with all the other non-whites?  That doesn't make any sense, especially given that the British did not single out Africans for particular racist attitudes above anyone else.

          Hell, the British would have been far more likely to not want Irish people on board, and we know there were plenty of those...

          •  Why would they not? (0+ / 0-)

            I mean, we can go around in circles on this all day, but the point I'm making to you is that you don't know for sure.  

            "No, I'm being judged against the ideal. Joe Biden has a saying: 'Don't judge me against the Almighty, judge me against the alternative." --President Barack Obama, 12/11/11

            by smoothnmellow on Tue Apr 10, 2012 at 11:56:44 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  What kind of question is that? (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              annetteboardman, JVolvo

              That's an utterly asinine thing to say that proves nothing.

              How about: they wouldn't turn down anyone willing to buy a ticket?  Considering they allowed multiple non-white races on board, there's zero evidence or reason to believe they barred anyone based on race from buying a ticket.

              Look, if you're going to assert the WSL barred black people, the burden of proof is on you to prove that.  So go ahead and do so.

              Honestly, this is one of the most bizarre discussions I've had in a while...

  •  one small quibble (12+ / 0-)

    were there Blacks among the stewards or perhaps in the "black gang" the coal stokers?  This family may have been the only ones among the passengers but I wonder about the racial composition of the crew?

    •  Unlikely. (5+ / 0-)

      The crew would have been almost entirely British.  This was well before the days when ocean liner crews would be international in composition.

      •  However excavations at a British Home (13+ / 0-)

        for Naval Veterans unearthed the skeleton of one African descended sailor who had lost his knee below the knee but lived into his 60s.  He dated back to Nelson's fleet so the assumption that a British crew precluded people of African descent is not necessarily true.  There were several British colonies which had large populations of African  and mixed race descendants

        •  As I said, unlikely. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          raster44, Tonedevil

          Which isn't to say impossible.  While there certainly were a few black people living in Britain at that time, the numbers were very small.

          So far there is zero evidence for there being any black crew members on the Titanic.  

          •  however, failing family artifacts how would (4+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            MKSinSA, JoanMar, raster44, Tonedevil

            this be determined?
            While the White StarLine kept lists of employees, I am unaware that they designated race.  Add to that very few crew survived, it makes such determination  even more difficult.

            The question would have to be how to determine the heritage of the crew this far removed in time.  The location of an African descended seaman dating from Nelson's fleet certainly gives impetus for more research into the diversity of the military and civilian fleets    

            •  Titanic historians have pored over this (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Tonedevil, annetteboardman, Dracowyrm

              And there is no evidence indicating that any of the crew members were black.  What more can anyone tell you except that there is zero evidence that it's the case?

              •  were there any of African descent employed (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                anywhere by the White Star Line?  Needless to say, historians also thought Nelson's fleet was manned solely by White Brits

                •  It is virtually impossible to determine (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Tonedevil, JVolvo

                  The WSL ceased to exist after merging with Cunard in the 1930s.  Whatever records they had about crew members prior to then was basically just names.  There wouldn't have been any official documenting of race, as that's a fairly modern employment demographic concept.  I'm sure it's entirely probable that at some point in the 60+ year history of the WSL that they employed someone of African descent, but we're talking dozens and dozens of ships with hundreds of sailings where the only documentation, if any, would be just the name of the crew member and how much s/he was paid.

                  The only thing we can rely on is the evidence from the Titanic, and nobody has uncovered anything indicating the presence of African crew members.  If they were on board, they likely would have been confined to the lower crew decks and would have perished.  So there's simply no way of knowing.  But we can surmise that the probability, given the overall racial pool of crew members and the fact there's no record of a survivor talking about African crew members, is low.

                  •  the history of the African diaspora is not well (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:

                    documented and the more we investigate the more we learn that the past was more diverse than what first investigation would seem to indicate.

                    The Haitian family in question was 2nd class.  Most 1st class and a good many 2nd class passengers survived.  Steerage had the highest mortality among the passengers.

                    Few crewmen survived and the passengers would have had little or no contact with the Black Gang for example.

                    Here is an account from one of the descendants:

                    All I am doing is pointing out that there is a question here for historians to investigate.  The more we investigate, the more we can get a clearer view of our recent history.  For example, many accounts of WWI misses that the Allies in Europe used Hindu, Muslim and African troops to a greater extent than one might expect  

                    •  Historians have investigated it. (0+ / 0-)

                      Let's not pretend this isn't an issue that hasn't been the subject of extensive exploration.  The Titanic disaster is one of the most extensively researched incidents in history.

                      As of now, there's simply no evidence for black crew members being on board, and the odds are that there were not.

                      At any rate, what difference does it make if there were 20 black people or 1 or none on board?  I wouldn't call the Titanic disaster a cultural event wherein a lack of representation of certain ethnicities is a problem...

                      •  if you cannot see why if the crew were (0+ / 0-)

                        diverse or not diverse, should be of interest to historians, then I cannot explain it to you.  As to the investigations in the past, as I have tried to point out, previous historians either did not find the question germane or of interest or else they concluded there was a lack of information or it was not able to be determined from existing records.

                        In the meantime, they are finding that maritime crews were perhaps the most diverse group of their time.  As another example, I would point to recent excavations of sailors' graves in Peru, I believe, which turned up Chinese sailors when no Chinese ship had docked there  

                        •  No one said it shouldn't be of interest (1+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:

                          to historians in terms of exploring the overall make up of ship crews at the time.

                          My point was that it isn't really relevant to the Titanic disaster in particular, so I'm not sure I see the need to push the issue beyond, "there's no evidence for it."  That's all we can say about it.  Some ships at that time would probably have had African crew members, sure.  But there's no evidence the Titanic did, and it's entirely reasonable to believe that while some ships would have African crew, many would not, and it's therefore entirely reasonable, given the lack of evidence, that the Titanic did not.

                          But the presence/non-presence of any black crew members on the Titanic isn't germaine to the ship or the disaster itself, as far as I can see.  The disaster has long stood as a horrific example of classism leading to deaths of the underprivileged anyway.

                        •  The Titanic is not a typical "historian" issue (2+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:
                          Boris Godunov, JVolvo

                          There have been people pouring over the records, tracking down relatives of survivors, for almost 100 years. There were records of families kept as there were (very limited) benefits paid to the survivors.  

                          And there have been lots of discussions of minorities on board.  The literature for the Titanic is much less traditional than you seem to suggest.  They questions have not been traditional either.  

                          There was a discussion I just saw about gay men on the Titanic which was frustrating because it had no evidence for the claims.  That was a speculative essay without looking into the biographies of the people they were  discussing.  

                          Down with the Old Canoe
                          has a discussion of black claiming of the Titanic legacy, I believe.  You might want to take a look there for that information.

                •  Yes: all of them. Like all humans. nt (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Boris Godunov
          •  There were considerably more than a "few" (7+ / 0-)

            people of African descent in Britain long before the making of the Titanic.
            There is even evidence that there were black people in the British Isles long before slavery. And don't forget that all the natives of all the colonies of Great Britain were also, technically, British.

        •  Navy took anyone. Tough life in wooden ships (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          moiv, JVolvo

          so I would think that anyone who could be shanghaied on board would get into the Navy and regular ships for that matter... so at the bottom of the social ladder at sea there was likely no ethnic or color bar. There were not a  lot of black people in England at the time; more than is generally realized but still in the early 1800s most of the country outside of big cities mostly on the coasts had never seen a black person... But again sailors included people from all nations and seaports in England had transient populations of many nationalities.

          Interesting that Great Britain being the dominant slaving nation in the later and end stages of the Atlantic slave trade did not really have many slaves come to England an settle there voluntarily or otherwise. There the few who did come with their "owners" to England from colonies were more like novelty house servants. And for the rest regardless of how they got to England, workers in dangerous and unpleasant tasks in port cites would have had more of the black workers that were in less fortunate circumstances since they had little choice of better jobs.

          By the time of the Titanic it is hard to tell. There seems to have been an "invisible" population of black English at the time in London and other population centers that were not acknowledged all that much officially and in newspapers and literature and if mention was made it would have mostly been negative... in crime reporting etc. (how little has changed). Immigration from any of  "the colonies" was the exception and novelty "guests" from African nobility or upper classes there and elsewhere (Caribbean etc.) would be mentioned more positively if still condescendingly (White "noblesse oblige"/burden).

          Some say that there was a noticeably larger black minority population earlier leading up to the end of the slave trade in the early 1800s but since it was still small in numbers relatively speaking with black men outnumbering black women and economically disadvantaged to a great degree with some intermarriage with whites on the one hand and a lack of black women on the other meant that until after WWII populations of "Black English" had blended and dwindled to a great degree.

          So it is likely that some of the crew had black ancestry but it might not have been very apparent. Being hired in the first place for the Titanic a hundred years ago would require some previous experience and the invisible remnants of the black English would have trouble being hired in jobs with a career ladder... unless they could "pass". So my take is that if there were any crew who appeared more African  they would have been below decks and not stewards. And in society in general People would not even have been aware of there being a subtle and pervasive form of racism affecting hiring and staffing since those discriminated against were so invisible one way or the other that they were relegated to mostly niche jobs at the bottom of society. And that may mean that very few identifiably English Black crew were on board.

          A few years after Titanic When films began showing some black people, their roles in the background  reflected this general "invisibility" and second class status - as seen but with hardly a noticed status as servants etc. in the US and even more so in England since the Black population was much smaller.

          Pogo & Murphy's Law, every time. Also "Trust but verify" - St. Ronnie (hah...)

          by IreGyre on Tue Apr 10, 2012 at 03:53:35 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  There were black Britons, too. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        raster44, Tonedevil
    •  Not to my knowledge, based on ~40 years of study. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:


  •  Heh, the Chicago Tribune article... (7+ / 0-)

    ...ends with this:

    ""I want everybody to know that the Titanic was going to Haiti, and there was a black man onboard who wasn't a slave or waiter or servant," Alberts said. "I remember seeing the movie with my father in 1997 and I had goose bumps. It means even more now.""

    Er, going to Haiti?  I don't think so...

  •  Indian Orchard? (6+ / 0-)

    Get outta here!  The Titanic Historical Society is located in Indian Orchard, MA?!  I'm sorry, you have to know the Orchard to fully grasp how completely bizarre that is.

    The law, in its majestic equality, forbids rich and poor alike from sleeping under bridges. ~ Anatole France

    by ActivistGuy on Tue Apr 10, 2012 at 12:21:04 AM PDT

    •  There is a discussion of the THS (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Cedwyn, raster44, Tonedevil

      in Down with the Old Canoe, a popular history of the Titanic in popular history.  The discussion is not particularly complimentary.  But their journal is actually a really interesting publication (The Commutator).  

      •  Great book, and yeah, the THS members (6+ / 0-)

        overwhelmingly tend to be of the middle-aged, right-wing white male variety.  Many seem to view the disaster as some sort of example of the heroicism of rich white men who stayed behind while their women and children got to safety, rather than dwell on that uncomfortabled part about the steerage passengers who died in droves because they weren't rich enough to afford accomodations closer to the lifeboats.

        •  Were they even allowed above deck? (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          I thought many of the steerage class were locked below decks and no one unlocked the passage doors.

          Do you know?

          What a Police State Looks Like: "On one side: soft human flesh, unprotected human skulls, cardboard signs, slogans they chant, armed with belief in 1st Amendment rights. On the other: helmets, body armor, guns, batons, chemical weapons." -- JanetRhodes

          by YucatanMan on Tue Apr 10, 2012 at 12:42:26 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Yes and no. (6+ / 0-)

            There is one notorious instance where 3rd class stewards locked about 150 Swedes into the aft lounge and forgot about them, so it is presumed they all died there.

            The ship was segregated by class and there were barriers in parts of the ship to prevent the steerage passengers from wandering outside of their designated decks.  But they had their own outside spaces on the forward and aft Well Decks (the open space between the superstructure decks and the poop decks).  There were no lifeboats there, however.

            There had never been a lifeboat drill, so the steerage crew were utterly without guidance as to what to do.  The deck officers loading the boats assumed the third class women and children would be brought up to them, while the steerage crew thought they would board the boats via the gangway doors in the side of the lower decks.  Nobody really took charge of the situation.

            Several stewards did lead up small groups of steerage passengers to the boat deck and got women and children off.  Also, some small groups made their own way up top and the women were allowed in the boats.  However, the vast majority of steerage passengers didn't emerge topside until after the lifeboats were gone.

            I don't believe there was any deliberate plot to keep the steerage passengers away from the boats to ensure they drowned, but there was massive incompetence, miscommunication and a lack of thought about them in general.

            •  Also lack of leadership. EJ pretty clearly went (5+ / 0-)

              into a fog; he was indecisive and his officers therefore had to make their own decisions as the night wore on.

              All circumstances devolved against survival of 3rd Class: layout of the ship, locked gates, lack of command and control, and class prejudices. But it is highly unlikely that any member of the crew intentionally acted with the purpose of allowing 3rd class passengers to die.

              •  Captain Smith was utterly useless (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Dracowyrm, annetteboardman, JVolvo

                during the sinking.  I did appreciate that Cameron's Titanic was the first movie to show the reality that he pretty much shut down and his officers were left to fend for themselves in the confusion.  Other films tend to lionize him as the stalwart commander.

                In truth, Smith had always been a bit of a peacock who was more about keeping the passengers happy than being a competent ship's captain.  Of course, some might argue that in the passenger ship business, that was what mattered more.  He was certainly the most popular WSL captain.

                •  Examined with an eye to mgmt & leadership (4+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  annetteboardman, moiv, JVolvo, YucatanMan

                  the man completely fell apart.

                  Think about it: not only could the boats have been filled, but how many rafts could have been constructed over two hours and 40 minutes? They had wood paneling and deck chairs for days.

                  To be fair, the chain of command didn't do much better. There isn't word one about Wilde that night. Murdoch and Lightoller were operating on different concepts over who should be allowed in the boats.

                  It was just a world-class cockup from beginning to end, from design and the lifeboat decision to the loss of the lookout binoculars, cancellation of the boat drill, ignoring of the ice messages...basically, they didn't stop screwing up until the water closed over the fantail.

                  Even then, if you count not going back for swimmers...

        •  Also disproportionately Lordites. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          Which calls into question how much these members' approaches are based in evidence, as opposed to ideology.

          •  Really? I'd never heard that. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            In my understanding, the overwhelming number of Titanic enthusiasts, including THS members, held the traditional view that Lord and the Californian failed to act when they should have.

            •  I've been surprised at how many THS stalwarts (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              got with Leslie Reade's program. Bear in mind, I drew this conclusion back in the 90s--not sure what they're like now. I think it came down to Reade's incessant badgering of anyone who dared to publicly point figures at Lord.

              Ever read George Behe's correspondence with Reade? Amazing.

    •  you should explain to us who (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Tonedevil, YucatanMan, ActivistGuy

      never heard of the place.

      America could have chosen to be the worlds doctor, or grocer. We choose instead to be her policeman. pity

      by cacamp on Tue Apr 10, 2012 at 11:01:56 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  When I posted (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        moiv, JVolvo, annetteboardman

        it didn't look like this diary was going to get much attention, and that maybe I was going to be the end of it, which is why I didn't bother.  Clearly that's changed.

        IO is a down-at-its-heels blue collar industrial ethnic working class district of Springfield, MA, far from the ocean or ports or anything seagoing.   It doesn't even face on the main river near Springfield, the Connecticut, but did have a metal footbridge fall into one of its minor tributaries a couple years ago.

        Trying to come up with why it might be the home of the Titanic Historical Society. The best I can do is that it has been the home of the Chapman Valve Company for a very long time.  They make high quality industrial grade valves and related fixtures which may have been among the parts installed in the Titanic, including for the bilge pumps.

        The law, in its majestic equality, forbids rich and poor alike from sleeping under bridges. ~ Anatole France

        by ActivistGuy on Tue Apr 10, 2012 at 05:55:02 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Loving It... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    raster44, Tonedevil


  •  I found this extremely interesting and had (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    raster44, Tonedevil

    no idea there were blacks on the Titanic.

  •  I have heard mention that there were US preachers (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    prettygirlxoxoxo, Tonedevil, raincrow

    at the time who attributed the sinking as God's judgment for the prescence of an interracial married couple onboard.  Am I  correct in thinking that was in reference to this man and his wife?  It would seem to be the only possibility to inflame the racist fundies of the day.

  •  But there was another black man on the Titanic (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    entrelac, Tonedevil, raincrow, moiv

    who clearly survived and is photographed in a lifeboat approaching Carpathia  WHO IS THIS?

  •  What a fascinating read. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Rec'd and tipped. Great diary.

    I can just about forgive the Brits for starting our revolutionary war and burning DC to the ground during the war of 1812 for giving us Led Zeppelin.

    by Pager on Tue Apr 10, 2012 at 09:52:14 AM PDT

  •  My Grandfather had a ticket for the Titanic (8+ / 0-)

    but his connecting steamer from Sweden arrived late and he missed the boat. Good thing for me.

    From George Packers piece in the New Yorker:

    Iceberg to the Right: From the Titanic to Paul Ryan

    When the Titanic set sail on her first and only voyage a hundred years ago today, the thirteen hundred passengers were separated into first, second, and third class; they included the cream of Anglo-American aristocracy—Astors, Guggenheims, Duff-Gordons—as well hundreds of immigrants in steerage. This division proved decisive when things went wrong four nights later. Due to the labyrinthine distance between the lower decks and the hope of rescue on the main deck, the locking of access doors by overzealous crew members, language barriers, and an apparent outbreak of pious fatalism below, the mortality rate among third-class men, women, and children was eighty-four per cent, fifty-four per cent, and sixty-six per cent, respectively; in first class, the same figures were sixty-seven per cent, three per cent, and sixteen per cent. Which shows that, while it was better across classes to be a woman or child in the Titanic’s last minutes, it was also better to be rich than poor or somewhere between (of the men in second class, ninety-two per cent perished).

    Republicans take care of big money, for big money takes care of them ~ Will Rogers

    by Lefty Coaster on Tue Apr 10, 2012 at 10:09:41 AM PDT

    •  Heh. Good thing! (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Tonedevil, Lefty Coaster

      "No, I'm being judged against the ideal. Joe Biden has a saying: 'Don't judge me against the Almighty, judge me against the alternative." --President Barack Obama, 12/11/11

      by smoothnmellow on Tue Apr 10, 2012 at 10:54:26 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Keep in mind that such claims (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Dracowyrm, JVolvo

      became so common in the decades following the Titanic disaster that it's really unlikely that it is true.  If everyone who claimed to have "just missed" the Titanic's sailing was telling the truth, then she would have been overbooked by, oh a couple of hundred thousand passengers...

      Often, these things get passed down as family folklore, but unfortunately there's little basis of truth in them.

      •  Mr. Know-it-all calls me a liar (0+ / 0-)

        Fuck you!

        Republicans take care of big money, for big money takes care of them ~ Will Rogers

        by Lefty Coaster on Tue Apr 10, 2012 at 02:00:38 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Not you--possibly your relative. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Boris Godunov, JVolvo

          It's not personal. There are literally hundreds of such "family legend" claims that have been disproved.

        •  Uh, I did? (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:


          No, I said that the probability is that the story about your grandfather is a family legend, passed down by those believing it's true.  I didn't say you made it up.

          Why so defensive?

          •  My grandfather never one to brag or embellish the (0+ / 0-)

            truth is the slightest way.

            Yet you reject his his account out of hand with a blanket statement?

            Why the need to jump in and claim he was wrong?

            Republicans take care of big money, for big money takes care of them ~ Will Rogers

            by Lefty Coaster on Tue Apr 10, 2012 at 03:45:55 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I didn't claim he was wrong, I said (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              that it was unlikely the story was correct, precisely for the reasons I delineated earlier: literally tens if not hundreds of thousands of such claims exist, and it's preposterous to assume even a fraction of those are true.  When one has seen this same claim repeated over and over, doesn't it make sense to be skeptical?

              Besides, you didn't say, "my grandfather told me..."  As you presented it, how was I to know you weren't referring to a story told you by a parent who got it from your granddad's spouse?  And maybe they just heard the story wrong or embellished it?

              Maybe it's true, but I'd just urge taking it with a grain of salt.  It is one of the most common human traits to tell tales tying them to big, important events that are, frequently, exaggerations.  I don't think that makes someone a bad person or an immoral liar, it's something people do the world over.

              •  It is also true that memory is malleable. (0+ / 0-)

                Perhaps what actually happened is that he planned to sail for New York at around the time the Titanic sailed, but he didn't get there in time and never actually held a ticket. Or perhaps he had a ticket on one of the other ships from which passengers were transferred to the Titanic due to the coal mining strike (which led to a shortage of coal--other ships had their coal moved over to the Titanic so she could make her maiden voyage), but got there too late to sail. Or perhaps he got to England at around the time everyone was upset about the disaster and just had vivid memories associated with the ship upon his first arrival in a strange foreign country.

                Honestly, no one knows whether or not anyone "embellishes the truth"...including ourselves. It's quite well documented now that memories are not fixed. We re-edit and amend them all the time. After decades of time, it is actually impossible even for your grandfather to know for certain whether his claim was correct.

                •  Recollections by survivors of the disaster, BTW, (0+ / 0-)

                  are fully of "memories" which cannot possibly be correct. They were THERE, and THEY didn't remember it correctly. It hardly seems unlikely that a more fleeting and tangential memory may have been imagined.

    •  Could be just a family legend (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Boris Godunov, JVolvo

      Within a week after the tragedy, wags in the press were noting that if all the people claiming to have just missed the ship or had a ticket but not sailed had been aboard, she would have sunk at the dock in Southhampton.

      Note on your statistics: sometimes statistics can be misleading. For example, you point out that only 16% of first class children were lost. That doesn't sound fair, but it sounds bad.

      Except that that works out to exactly one person: Lorraine Allison.

  •  I learn more obscure history on DailyKos... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dracowyrm, charliehall2

    ...than just about anywhere else. (Not including Wikipedia)  This, along with that one poster who writes about Native Americans...very interesting.

    Too bad this wasn't as well known about back when Titantic was being made. Cuba Gooding Jr. really missed out on what could've been a really sweet role for him.

  •  Maybe the only "black Man" but (0+ / 0-)

    from today's Daily Mail, there was at least one other mixed race passenger on the Titanic

    Does long-lost photo solve mystery of why playboy drowned on Titanic? Millionaire 'wouldn't leave mixed-race valet who would have been denied place on lifeboat'

    Read more:


    Victor Giglio was apparently half Italian, half Egyptian.

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