Cover image for The Port Chicago 50 : disaster, mutiny, and the fight for civil rights
Title:
The Port Chicago 50 : disaster, mutiny, and the fight for civil rights
Author:
Sheinkin, Steve.
Personal Author:
Edition:
First edtion.
Publication Information:
New York : Roaring Brook Press, 2014.
Physical Description:
200 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Summary:
Presents an account of the 1944 civil rights protest involving hundreds of African-American Navy servicemen who were unjustly charged with mutiny for refusing to work in unsafe conditions after the deadly Port Chicago explosion.
Language:
English
Contents:
First hero -- The policy -- Port Chicago -- Work and liberty -- The lawyer -- Hot cargo -- The explosion -- The inquiry -- Column left -- Prison barge -- The fifty -- Treasure Island -- Prosecution -- Joe Small -- The verdict -- Hard labor -- Small goes to sea -- Epilogue: Civil rights heroes.
Reading Level:
950 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR UG 6.7 6.0 163116.

Reading Counts RC 6-8 7.4 10 Quiz: 62377.
ISBN:
9781596437968
Format :
Book

Available:*

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D810.N4 S44 2014 Juvenile Non-Fiction Teen
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D810.N4 S44 2014 Juvenile Non-Fiction Open Shelf
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D810.N4 S44 2014 Juvenile Non-Fiction Childrens Area-Black History
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D810.N4 S44 2014 Juvenile Non-Fiction Biography
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D810.N4 S44 2014 Juvenile Non-Fiction Open Shelf
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D810.N4 S44 2014 Juvenile Non-Fiction Biography
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D810.N4 S44 2014 Juvenile Non-Fiction Open Shelf
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D810.N4 S44 2014 Juvenile Non-Fiction Open Shelf
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D810.N4 S44 2014 Juvenile Non-Fiction Open Shelf
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D810.N4 S44 2014 Juvenile Non-Fiction Open Shelf
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Summary

Summary

An astonishing civil rights story from Newbery Honor winner and National Book Award finalist Steve Sheinkin.
On July 17, 1944, a massive explosion rocked the segregated Navy base at Port Chicago, California, killing more than 300 sailors who were at the docks, critically injuring off-duty men in their bunks, and shattering windows up to a mile away. On August 9th, 244 men refused to go back to work until unsafe and unfair conditions at the docks were addressed. When the dust settled, fifty were charged with mutiny, facing decades in jail and even execution.
This is a fascinating story of the prejudice that faced black men and women in America's armed forces during World War II, and a nuanced look at those who gave their lives in service of a country where they lacked the most basic rights.

This thoroughly-researched and documented book can be worked into multiple aspects of the common core curriculum.


Author Notes

Steve Sheinkin is the award-winning author of several fascinating books on American history, including The Notorious Benedict Arnold , which won the YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults, the Boston Globe/Horn Book Award for nonfiction, and received three starred reviews; and Bomb, a National Book Award finalist and recipient of five starred reviews. He lives in Saratoga Springs, NY.


Reviews 3

Booklist Review

The award-winning author of Bomb (2012) returns with another compelling American history narrative. This time Sheinkin takes on the Port Chicago 50, a group of African American sailors who were court-martialed and convicted of mutiny when they refused to continue loading ammunition after experiencing a terrifying accidental explosion that destroyed the entire port. Tracing the history of racial discrimination in the U.S. armed forces, Sheinkin describes the U.S. Navy's long-standing policy of restricting duties for African American servicemen, the unfair treatment the divisions received at the segregated Port Chicago facility, and the dangerous working conditions facing the sailors there, including a lack of training on how to properly handle explosives, and competitions that encouraged reckless practices. Sheinkin's narrative shines as he recounts the frustrating court-martial trial that resulted in a guilty verdict for all 50 men, which still stands today despite repeated attempts to exonerate the sailors. Photos, reproductions of primary documents, and direct quotes from the sailors themselves flesh-out this account of a little-known piece of civil rights history.--Hunter, Sarah Copyright 2014 Booklist


Publisher's Weekly Review

Sheinkin delivers another meticulously researched WWII story, one he discovered while working on his Newbery Honor book, Bomb. The accidental explosion at Port Chicago, a California Navy base where African-American servicemen loaded ammunition onto ships, killed more than 300 soldiers and injured nearly 400. The author carefully details how this long-forgotten event from 1944 was pivotal in helping end segregation in the military. Though not as fast-paced as Bomb, the dialogue-laden narrative draws heavily on past interviews with the servicemen, telling the story from their perspective. Ordered to load ammunition without proper training-and often in a competitive atmosphere fostered by their white officers-50 African-American sailors refused to return to the same work after the disaster. Readers get a front-row seat at their mutiny trial through myriad trial transcript excerpts. Tried and convicted, their convictions still stand today despite efforts to expunge the now-deceased men's records. Archival photos appear throughout, and an extensive bibliography, source notes, and index conclude this gripping, even horrific account of a battle for civil rights predating Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr. Ages 10-14. Agent: Susan Cohen, Writers House. (Jan.) ? (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


School Library Journal Review

Gr 7 Up-In the summer of 1944, 50 sailors, all of them African American, were tried and convicted of mutiny by the U.S. Navy. They had refused to follow a direct order of loading dangerous rockets and munitions on ships bound for battle in the Pacific after an enormous explosion had killed more than 300 of their fellow sailors and other civilians working on the dock. At the heart of this story is the rampant racism that permeated the military at all levels, leaving minority sailors and soldiers to do the drudge work almost exclusively while their white counterparts served on the front lines. Through extensive research, Sheinkin effectively re-creates both the tense atmosphere at Port Chicago before and after the disaster as well as the events that led to the men's refusal of this one particular order that they felt put them directly in harm's way. Much of the tension in this account stems from the growing frustration that readers are meant to feel as bigotry and discrimination are encountered at every turn and at every level of the military. There is a wealth of primary-source material here, including interviews with the convicted sailors, court records, photographs, and other documents, all of which come together to tell a story that clearly had a huge impact on race relations in the military. This is a story that remains largely unknown to many Americans, and is one of the many from World War II about segregation and race that is important to explore with students. Abundant black-and-white photos, extensive source notes, and a thorough bibliography are included.-Jody Kopple, Shady Hill School, Cambridge, MA (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Excerpts

Excerpts

FIRST HERO HE WAS GATHERING dirty laundry when the bombs started falling. It was early on the morning of December 7, 1941, at the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and Mess Attendant Dorie Miller had just gone on duty aboard the battleship USS West Virginia . A six-foot-three, 225-pound Texan, Miller was the ship's heavyweight boxing champ. But his everyday duties were somewhat less challenging. As one of the ship's African American mess attendants, he cooked and cleaned for the white sailors. Miller was below deck, picking up clothes, when the first torpedo slammed into the side of the West Virginia . Sirens shrieked and a voice roared over the loudspeaker: "Japanese are attacking! All hands, General Quarters!" Miller ran to his assigned battle station, an ammunition magazine--and saw it had already been blown apart. He raced up to the deck and looked up at a bright blue sky streaked with enemy planes and falling bombs. Japan's massive attack had taken the base by surprise, and thunderous explosions were rocking American ships all over the harbor. Two direct hits cracked through the deck of the West Virginia , sending flames and shrapnel flying. Amid the smoke and chaos, an officer saw Miller and shouted for him to help move the wounded. Miller began lifting men, carrying them farther from the spreading fires. Then he spotted a dead gunner beside an anti-aircraft machine gun. He'd never been instructed in the operation of this weapon. But he'd seen it used. That was enough. Jumping behind the gun, Miller tilted the barrel up and took aim at a Japanese plane. "It wasn't hard," he'd later say. "I just pulled the trigger, and she worked fine." As Miller blasted away, downing at least one enemy airplane, several more torpedoes blew gaping holes in the side of the West Virginia . The ship listed sharply to the left as it took on water. The captain, who lay dying of a belly wound, ordered, "Abandon ship!" Sailors started climbing over the edge of the ship, leaping into the water. Miller scrambled around the burning, tilting deck, helping wounded crewmembers escape the sinking ship before jumping to safety himself. * * * After the battle, an officer who had witnessed Miller's bravery recommended him for the Navy Cross, the highest decoration given by the Navy. "For distinguished devotion to duty," declared Miller's official Navy Cross citation, "extraordinary courage and disregard for his own personal safety during the attack on the Fleet in Pearl Harbor." In early 1942, soon after the United States had entered World War II, Admiral Chester Nimitz personally pinned the medal to Miller's chest. "This marks the first time in this conflict that such high tribute has been made in the Pacific Fleet to a member of his race," Nimitz declared. "I'm sure that the future will see others similarly honored for brave acts." And then Dorie Miller, one of the first American heroes of World War II, went back to collecting laundry. He was still just a mess attendant. It was the only position open to black men in the United States Navy. Text copyright © 2014 by Steve Sheinkin Excerpted from The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights by Steve Sheinkin All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.