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

4.09 of 5 stars 4.09  ·  rating details  ·  1,693 ratings  ·  397 reviews
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
Audio CD
Published January 28th 2014 by Listening Library (first published January 21st 2014)
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A Snicker of Magic by Natalie LloydBrown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline WoodsonThe Night Gardener by Jonathan AuxierThe Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. HolmThe Ghosts of Tupelo Landing by Sheila Turnage
Newbery 2015
20th out of 110 books — 488 voters
The Notorious Benedict Arnold by Steve SheinkinThe Port Chicago 50 by Steve SheinkinSniffer Dogs by Nancy F. CastaldoThe Man Who Went to the Far Side of the Moon by Bea Uusma SchyffertInvincible Microbe by Jim  Murphy
Middle Grade Non-fiction
2nd out of 26 books — 5 voters

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Community Reviews

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Tony Keefer
Excellent book. My first thoughts when I finished The Port Chicago 50 were:

1) Wow.
2) Why hadn't I heard this story before?
3) Can't wait to share this book.
4) I am glad Steve Sheinkin likes to write books.
Penny Johnson
Here's the importance of this book: I grew up literally in the shadow of Port Chicago. The edge of the base was on the other side of the fence from my high school. And I NEVER heard about the Port Chicago 50 until I read an ARC of this book. You would think at least in my junior Social Studies class, where we had an extensive civil rights unit, we would have discussed something that happened in our backyard. But no. After I read the book I asked my mother what she knew about the whole thing, as ...more
Erica Shipow
Sheinkin does it again. The master of "amazing-but-true," "How-in-the-world-did-I-not-know-this-before?" nonfiction. It didn't grab me as quickly as Bomb did, but the build-up definitely pays off. No spoilers though! (Which is crazy because you could just go Google what happened! But I would never think to do that because Sheinkin keeps me so wrapped up in the story that I forget things like Google and Wikipedia ever existed. I trust Sheinkin and only Sheinkin to give me this information. Step a ...more
This is a great work of nonfiction and an infuriating story--especially since I listened to it in the wake of the Ferguson decision. The story of these brave black sailors and the conditions they went through just ARGHHHH so inpsiring/annoying!! America!! what the hell!! what the hell!!

Anyway the audiobook was fine, but probably a print book would be preferable because I assume it has some pictures? I will have to check that out to confirm.

anyway, a well-researched, important story that hasn't b
Once again the multiple award-winning author Steve Sheinkin excels at reporting an important (but not widely known) moment in history in a format friendly to younger readers as well as to adults. In this case, the moment he records changed the course of race relations in the U.S.

Port Chicago was a U.S. Navy base in the San Francisco Bay where, during World War II, black sailers were assigned to load bombs and ammunition into ships headed for American troops in the Pacific. All the officers were
Feb 22, 2015 Joan rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Students of American History, WW II, African American civil rights, Thurgood Marshall info.
Sheinkin has done it again: produced another award winner. OK, the awards haven't been announced at this point, but I can't see this not coming in for a King Award. Probably not the winner, I would guess Brown Girl Dreaming has that locked up, judging by all the talk and awards it has already won, but one of the honor books. Possibly a Siebert as well, although again, I suspect an honor, not the winner. It has been an incredible year for nonfiction. If that is due to Common Core, count me a fan ...more
We all loved Bomb and this book is equally compelling and in this case, convincing. It is a story that has not been previously told to this audience and I think it will make them outraged at the abuses taken by African American men who joined the Navy only to be treated as even less than second class citizens and for whom there was a terrible miscarriage of justice. Thurgood Marshall plays a role here as well. The story is well researched, the men well flushed out, their motives well explained. ...more
Janelle Fila
The Port Chicago 50 is the story of 50 African-American men accused of mutiny by the Navy during World War II. Prior to the Civil Rights movement, these men pioneered the desegregation of the military, demanding safe working conditions for African-American soldiers. At the time, African-American were the only soldiers given the menial but dangerous job of loading live bombs onto Navy ships headed to war. Not allowed at sea themselves, these men were pushed to load ammunition faster, with no trai ...more
I am so glad I took the time to read this book. So many unsung heroes in the civil rights movement. This was well written and researched, but just doesn't have quite enough oomph for that 5th star, like I have his other book, Bomb.

My favorite quote: It was frustrating work, but Marshall cautioned fellow African Americans against turning bitter or losing hope. as rough as things were in the United States, he argued, they'd be a lot worse under the dictators America was fighting in World War II.
Spellbinding true story of an important chapter in the racial struggle in the United States. I had no idea that the Navy was the first branch of the military to integrate. Thanks to these men who had the courage to stand up for themselves. Well written.
This is eligible for my Printz year, so I'm not going to review or rate it here.
Segregation and racism were alive and well during WWII. That didn't stop thousands of young black men from joining the military to fight for their country. Almost all of these men were assigned menial jobs and deemed not fit for combat. In the Navy, that meant stateside duties instead of serving on ships. This book is about the group of men who loaded ammunition onto war ships at Port Chicago. They were all black with white officers. The men had no training in munitions or ship loading. The cond ...more
The Port Chicago 50 is the story of 50 African American Navy men who were put on trial for mutiny when they refused to return to work after an explosion destroyed the dock they worked on and killed hundreds of men. When they found out that they were being sent to another port to do the same exact work, load ammunition, without training, they feared for their lives. The explosion isn't a well known event because it happened during WWII and it was a story that the Navy tried to make disappear from ...more
Julia Reynolds
I grew up literally a few hours from this base and never heard this story. Ever. The fact that so many pre-Civil Rights era stories are surfacing about people involved in similar struggles (I'm thinking Claudette Colvin and the 555th Parachute Infantry Batallion) makes this book timely as well as historically important. The prose is written appropriately for children and explains context and adult situations (like social implications of microaggressions and the significance of lawyers making a p ...more
During World War II, when the Navy was segregated, many black sailors were assigned the duty of loading bombs onto ships at Port Chicago. An explosion on July 17, 1944 killed 320 men at Port Chicago. Although the cause was unknown, it is possible that lack of education for the sailors about how to handle the bombs, as well as pressure to hurry from the officers (all of them white) may have contributed to the incident. When ordered to return to work under the same conditions, 50 sailors refused t ...more
Richie Partington
Richie's Picks: THE PORT CHICAGO 50: DISASTER, MUTINY, AND THE FIGHT FOR CIVIL RIGHTS by Steve Sheinkin, Roaring Brook, January 2014, 208p., ISBN: 978-1-59643-796-8

At the conclusion of THE PORT CHICAGO 50, author Steve Sheinkin points out that the fifty defendants in this racist miscarriage of military justice are all now deceased, and so it is too late to fully remedy what was done to them. Nevertheless, as the author notes, there are people who know the story who are still seeking to exonerate
World War II seemed to offer opportunities for advancement for many African-Americans. But the promise remained simply that--a promise--as military units remained segregated, and many black sailors were given the jobs no one else wanted. This book, another fascinating plunge into a little-known aspect of history by the detail-minded Steve Sheinkin, tells the story of what happened at Port Chicago in 1944. Because the men who were handling explosives for the Navy at its base in the San Francisco ...more
The topic is interesting enough because it's a little-discussed piece of history. Black men in the NAVY are assigned to loading ammunition and explosives at the Port Chicago in California with little training because that was one of only very few options they had in the NAVY. As expected, the explosives explode and take out several hundred people and leave several hundred more injured by flying glass, metal, etc. Once all was said and done, fifty of the seamen decided that they would not comply ...more
Alex Baugh
When the United States went to war in 1941, a lot of people immediately signed up to serve their country. After all, they were Americans and their country was now in peril. And so millions of Americans went to war to fight to defend the freedoms they enjoyed so much. African Americans signed up to defend their country as well, but things weren't quite the same for them. Instead of receiving the honor and respect they deserved, African Americans faced the same discrimination and segregation in th ...more
Here is the story of a grave injustice and it is an injustice that has been left to stand, so I finished the book with an unhappy, bitter taste in my mouth. Sheinkin's research is deep (and nicely-sourced in the end matter) and the text is filled with the actual words of several of the 50 men found guilty of mutiny because they refused to load munitions in an environment devoid of safety precautions and regard for human life during WWII. The men were justifiably in fear of their lives, having be ...more
Ms. Yingling
Sheinkin has a good eye for picking interesting topics for nonfiction, and his research is tireless. The primary source documents and photos bring this story of segregation and prejudice during World War II a startling immediacy. Background information about the role of black soldiers in conflicts before and after WWII puts this in perspective, as do the late life updates about some of the individuals involved. That said, this struck me (as much of Sheinkin's work does) as almost too complete fo ...more
Barb Middleton
Steve Sheinkin is one of my favorite historical writers. His narrative nonfiction writing has the drama and characters found in any fiction novel, with spot-on pacing, and meticulous research. Don't miss this one. Set during World War II, the Navy has changed policies so that blacks can enlist, but this does not mean equality. Instead, Sheinkin reveals the institutionalized racism in American society, military, and government showing how a small group of fifty men, out of fear, were one of the p ...more
NYC Reads 365
"During World War II, Joe Small and many other African American men signed up with the Navy to fight for their country. But even the Armed Forces had a policy of segregation, and men of color were regulated to menial and dangerous jobs and not allowed to go to sea and fight for their country. The men at Port Chicago had a particularly dangerous job: they loaded ammunition onto ships which would be sent out to the soldiers in Europe. But conditions at Port Chicago were hazardous, and one day, dis ...more
Steve Sheinkin is not only a great writer, but he is also skilled in finding fascinating historical accounts of which I know little. I had not heard of the Port Chicago 50, but his quickly paced, well-written tale was very knowledgeable and very compelling and now I'm glad I do know about them!
4.1 stars

Got the title from a list of 2015 Newbery predictions. It’s another great nonfiction read by Steve Sheinkin. African Americans served and fought in the American Revolution, in the Civil War, in World War I---but in very segregated and even subservient capacities.

During World War II, after Pearl Harbor was bombed, there was a need for huge amounts of bombs and ammunition to be sent out on ships to fight the war in the Pacific. The U.S. Navy exclusively used African American navy soldiers
Sheinkin writes another ABSOLUTELY FASCINATING episode from history. He has yet to disappoint me, and after each book I shake my fist and rail at the sky that his books are not required reading for history classes and for all nonfiction writers.

Anyway, this particular story follows the events leading up to, and following, an explosion in Port Chicago during WWII. The Navy had Black sailors loading ammunition and bombs from rail cars to ships. Training was nonexistent and safety precautions inco
THE PORT CHICAGO 50: DISASTER, MUTINY, AND THE FIGHT FOR CIVIL RIGHTS by Steve Sheinkin is at the top of many nonfiction awards lists for 2014. Consider purchasing both the print and audiobook versions.

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 rall
Somehow, somewhere I knew the basic story of this history, but I don’t know where I know it from.

202 African- American sailors in July of 1944 were killed loading ammunition into ships, that they had no training or special equipment to do, in an explosion in the eastern San Francisco Bay Area, in the very segregated Navy. A month later, these men, many of them wounded in the explosion, asked for another duty and fifty of them were accused of and found guilty of mutiny. And while after they were
Woody Curran
This is an amazing book for early teens telling the story of 50 early pioneers in the fight against racism and segregation in America. In this case, it was in the U.S. Navy. This book is a clear and concise telling of a forgotten episode in our nation's history.
Edward Sullivan
An excellent, compelling work of nonfiction chronicling a little-known historical event that the author convincingly portrays as an early milestone in the burgeoning Civil Rights Movement.
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