Any evidence that the RMS Titanic staff's and steerage passengers was all-white?

Interesting dilemma.

In the African-American street toast ballad “Shine and the Titanic” a black man named “Shine” famously refuses to help the passengers and swims from the Titanic’s wreck — all the way to New York.

BUT – if the passengers and crew were all white, it kind of begs the question what was Shine doing there.

It especially boggles the mind since Shine is a depcited as an urbane Harlemite in many of the retellings and most of Titanic’s passengers were European gentry or the steerage poor. So if he had been black, it seems likely he’d have been somehow British.

I normally don’t get this picky with legends, myths and folklore but – might there have been a West Indian aboard the Titanic as a porter or a stoker or a servant? Or was the Titanic strictly segregated?

Hmf. Tis a poor, poor day in SDMB General Questions when I have to answer my own queries. Why, I remember when I could post a question and it’d be answered in a minute and a half.

  1. Blacks were apparently permitted accommodations in 2nd and 3rd class. World champion Jack Johnson was offered such a spot when he sought tickets, but he refused to accept, saying they were beneath him. Probably saved his life.

  2. Not sure about staff, though. But unless there was documented instances of black workers prevented from working on the ocean liner or prevented passage as servants of the richer paasengers, the fact that the madien voyage may have been more of a coincidence than policy.

Ummmm, hey. It is an interesting question which led me to do some searching. As a result I learned a few things, unrelated to your question. Plus things are kinda busy here at work ;).

I’d be fired in a heartbeat if I wasn’t the boss. :cool:

Wasn’t there a black Frenchman travelling with his white wife in 2nd class? :confused:

I researched that, and believe that story is a myth. The Titanic made its maiden voyage from England on 10 April 1912. Jack Johnson was in the U.S., specifically in Chicago, in February, March, and April of 1912. Johnson was in England in 1911, returning to New York aboard the Celtic on 23 Dec. 1911.

I should add that the Celtic was part of the White Star Line, same as Titanic, and Johnson had first class accommodations.

Makes a good ballad, but quite impossible, of course.

The Titanic sunk about 450 miles away from New York, far too much to swim.

The water in the North Atlantic was barely above freezing; a swimmer would survive for only an hour or so before dying from hypothermia.

What is a street toast ballad? Google is no help.

I believe the answer is there were no black crew members (no online or printed cite, I’m afraid, just something I remember from school) . However, I would be surprised if there was a policy of segregation, more likely an over supply of sailors (a catch all term for those with the necessary skills, so would include firemen etc) given it was peacetime and yes, a preference for white Europeans over Blacks, British or otherwise.

The Britich navy was not white only by any means, this source suggests a quarter of the merchant navy at the end of the 19th century may have been black. This suggests a third were non-European, recruited from around the empire.

So the Legend of the USS Titanic isn’t true?

well, particularly since Titanic was a British ship, so she was RMS Titanic

vetbridge. I was spoiled by the speed of previous questions that were answered.

alphaboi867. Yeah – check my link. Only the whole family was apparently Haitian and colloquially “light, bright and a damn near white.”

Walloon. Here’s a third possibility that includes all our facts. Jack Johnson was in Europe when the Titanic is announced. He’s willing to kick it in England for a few months until time to sail back to America just to be part of the maiden voyage. But he is refused first class accomodations on Titanic precisely because it’s the maiden voyage and he’s freaking Jack Johnson – the most notorious, high-profile black athlete of his day and a lightning rod for criticism, not to mention messing around with white women, so White Star Line says “No first class for you!” He refuses second and third class tickets and settles for heading back to America on the Celtic in first class accomodations. That’s MY theory. But this is Shine, baby.

Sir Doris. I appreciate your facts. Also, the list of Chinese names in steerage on the passenger manifests I’ve seen online suggests while there was definitely class and (some) segregation aboard the RMS Titanic, it definitely wasn’t all-white.

Fear Itself. There are some epic poems in black urban America told in cities and bars dating back to the early 20th century, all part of the black American oral tradition, really ribald and obscene and often filthy. Think: The Black Canterbury Tales. Some of the more famous ones include the various Stack O’ Lee ballads and of course The Lion and The Signifying Monkey. Black humor as street humor.

Help!! Urbandictionary has a zillion definitions for “shine”.

(sic) is my addition.
I don’t think this is your use of the term. Can I ask for an explaination without looking stoopid?

For a list of crew. They almost entirely are listed as ‘hometown - Southampton’, which for a new ship based there would make a lot of sense, as it surely necessitated active recruitment. What struck me about the passengers is the twenty or so Lebanese ones - was there a particular connection to the Titanic from a ship which had arrived from the middle east, perhaps?

Yes, “Shine” can be a derogatory nickname of an African-American. These days, so is “Mike Vick.” But just as there are actual historical personages who called themselves “The Nigger General” there are black characters with names like Shine. THIS particular character as immortalized in the Titanic toasts is a cold-blooded urbanite, a cold-hearted “I’ll save my own black ass” working class character who turns down sex with rich white women(!) and mocks dying babies(!!) while he seeks a way off the ship.

There are a couple dozen variants. Here’s a funny line:

All the millionaires looked around at Shine, say, ‘‘Now, Shine, oh, Shine, save poor me’’;
Say, "We’ll make you wealthier than one Shine can be.’’
Shine say, ‘‘You hate my color and you hate my race’’;
Say, ‘‘Jump overboard and give those sharks a chase.’’

Thanks, Askia. I shoulda figured it out from the capitalization.

What evidence do you have that your theory is true? There is plenty evidence that it is not. Johnson left England on December 11, 1911 with a trail of broken theatrical contracts, unpaid bills, and threatened lawsuits behind him. Several years passed before Johnson set foot in England again.

He said after his landing in New York that “I have a few weeks here on old contracts that I want to clear up.”

It’s usually best not to adopt a conclusion, and then try to squeeze the facts — or make up facts — to fit the conclusion.

Walloon. I drew a possible conclusion based on the facts I had at the moment. My conclusion was, and remains, “Maybe Jack Johnson was planning to hang around England for four months for the launch of the RMS Titanic but changed his mind when he realized White Lines weren’t going to give him a first-class ticket, so he caught the Celtic.” The fact he had stuff in New York does not mean he HAD to be there.

Nothing you have said so far contradicts this possibility, and I never said my theory was fact.

Never be afraid to embrace an alternate conclusion that stands up to scrutiny.

Very interesting. I am familiar with Stack O’ Lee (which is apparently synonymous with Stagger Lee from the song), but the others are new to me. You sound knowledgeable on the subject; it would make a good Wikipedia article.