November 24, 2015

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Courageous African American WWII Sailors Profiled in The Port Chicago 50 | Audio Pick

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Port Chicago 50 AudioSheinkin, Steve. The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights. 3 CDs. 3:50 hrs. Listening Library. 2014. $27. ISBN 9780804167420. digital download.
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