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The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights Paperback – January 3, 2017
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Gr 7 Up—In a fluid, methodical style, Dominic Hoffman reads this powerful book, which tells the story of brave men who fought the entrenched system of segregation found within the U.S. military during World War II. Sheinkin (Bomb) explains that while African American men had filled the ranks of the armed forces since the beginning of the nation, their advancement and status were limited. In this epic tale, African American sailors at Port Chicago naval base in California were assigned the dangerous task of loading explosives onto cargo ships. The men had had no training and were subjected to brutal work schedules under prejudiced commanders. In July 1944, munitions exploded, killing more than 300 people, most of whom were African American. Afterwards, a group of men, known as the Port Chicago 50, refused to continue the dangerous work. They were charged with mutiny and brought to trial, found guilty, and sentenced to hard labor. The riveting text draws upon court documents and testimony, allowing listeners to hear the words of the accused as well as the lawyers. The case drew the attention of NAACP lawyer Thurgood Marshall and officials within the Roosevelt administration who recognized that the real issue was segregation within the military. The brave men known as the Port Chicago 50 were pioneers in what would become the Civil Rights Movement; they led the way for other men who loved their country and wanted equal rights. This is a stupendous account sure to intrigue anyone interested in history or civil rights.—Patricia Ann Owens, formerly with Illinois Eastern Community Colleges, Mt. Carmel, Illinois --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
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. Grades 6-9. --Sarah Hunter --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
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A finalist for YALSA’s 2015 Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults Award, the book traces the little-known story of 50 African American sailors convicted of mutiny by the U.S. Navy during World War II. Refusing to follow orders to load dangerous explosives onto ships, their story became a rallying cry for those who felt the military’s segregation policies were discriminatory.
Sheinkin brings the story alive through his compelling, well-researched narrative. Woven throughout the story are primary resource materials including historical photos, interviews, and court records. The print and ebook versions contain extensive references and notes that support the narrative.
Middle and high school students often skim works of nonfiction and miss the impact of the narrative. Consider sharing the audiobook version of this story with youth. Dominic Hoffman is a superb storyteller who masterfully switches among a wide range of voices to keep listeners actively engaged in the story.
Many students and teachers who thought they knew about the Civil Rights Movement will be amazed by this gripping, little-known piece of history.
To learn more about the author, go to http://stevesheinkin.com/.
To see a slideshow on historical photos from the book, go to http://us.macmillan.com/theportchicago50/SteveSheinkin.
Watch a short documentary that explores the Great Port Chicago Explosion at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DaIphGJt5NU.
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