"The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights" by Steve Sheinken


TITLE: The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights

AUTHOR: Steve Sheinken

PUBLISHER: Roaring Book Press

PUBLISHED DATE: January 21, 2014

ISBN: 978-1596437968

PAGES: 208

This was an incredible book. Truly, truly an amazing book. I consider myself to be a bit of a black history buff, but I had never heard of this story, and I am very appreciative of this book, and for these men sharing their story with Mr. Sheinkin. This book has won numerous awards, and once you read this book you'll realize that it is well deserved.

People who know anything about the history of the United States, and particularly that of the United States military know that it has a very racist history. The story of the sailors involved in the explosion at Port Chicago is a prime example of this shameful history. Sheinkin is probably the first person in history to accurately interview the men who survived. These veterans report that the military never trained them on how to move ammunition - a very dangerous occupation that would have required extensive training on how to safely handle explosives. Two horrific explosions occured killing 320 sailors - 202 of which were African American and injuring 390 more. After this unprecedented tragedy, the African American survivors were taken to another shipyard and told to move ammunition, still without any training on the proper ways to safely handle explosives. The sailors refused the dangerous work - setting off a mutiny. The African American sailors demanded safer working conditions and training, but the navy refused them. All but 50 of the men returned to work without the proper safety precautions. The Port Chicago 50 made headlines. At trial - the men were railroaded. Their defense attorney's never discussed key evidence - particularly that the men had never received proper training, and were working under very hostile and dangerous conditions. Each sailor was found guilty of mutiny, and received 15 year sentences for not returning to work. None other than the famous Thurgood Marshall represented the men in an appeal. But the appeals did not work, and the NAACP and Eleanor Roosevelt made impassioned pleas on the men's behalf. Around the time that the men were released from prison, the government lifted restrictions on the types of assignments African American's received in the navy. This is a heartbreakingly unjust story - but one that needed to be told.

Recommendation: Required

Audience: Young Adults and Up

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