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

In Non-Fiction Reads, YA Book Reviews on March 18, 2014 at 6:00 pm


by Steve Sheinkin

Non-Fiction/©2014/170 pages/Recommended for 7th Grade and Above

Publisher’s Intro (Goodreads):

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.

My Thoughts:

I think Steve Sheinkin is my new favorite author. I read his last award winning book, BOMB: THE RACE TO BUILD – AND STEAL – THE WORLD’S MOST DANGEROUS WEAPON, and I was so impressed with how he made it read like a political thriller. I could not put it down. Despite the fact that his target audience is basically 7th -9th grade, his writing is equally appreciated by readers of any age. That book was well researched and well written, and I was amazed about how much I did not know about that issue.

When his latest book came out, I couldn’t wait to read it. I knew about the Port Chicago disaster, as I should, since I it is practically in my backyard. However, I had absolutely no idea about what had happened immediately after and the critical part it played in the fight for civil rights. This book rocked my world. Steve Sheinkin did an amazing job in terms of researching and writing about this little known event. What those 50 men did and what they stood up for deserves every bit as much credit as what Rosa Parks and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., did just a few years later.  I hope this book gets the widespread attention and recognition it so richly deserves. Perhaps it will even spur the action necessary to get justice and exoneration for the Port Chicago 50.

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

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