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

Steve Sheinkin, Author
Steve Sheinkin. Roaring Brook, $19.99 (208p) ISBN 978-1-59643-796-8
Book - 978-1-4676-6650-3
Book - 978-0-8041-6744-4
Compact Disc - 978-0-8041-6742-0
Ebook - 208 pages - 978-1-59643-983-2
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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.) ■
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