The paper recounts Laroche’s life story in order to probe ways in which African-Americans made sense of their lived existence during “the Nadir” of U.S. race relations. For many African Americans, the Titanic represented the ultimate symbol of white hubris. Indeed, in black memory and literature, the Titanic became a vehicle of jokes, roasts, and legends surrounding a possible black passenger. In oral tradition, African Americans developed a character named Shine (a derogatory name used for black men) who jumps into the water during the sinking of the ship. Shine mocks the wealthy passengers who found themselves in perilous waters. Attending to Laroche (the person) against the caricature (Shine) affords the opportunity to address black people who traveled with agency and contested white supremacy and its economic advantages. Laroche’s life story reveals the seemingly inescapable grasp of tragedy and demise that follow black people wherever they venture, even in their attempts to travel home.
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