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Colleen reviews… The Port Chicago 50

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

Published: 2014

Age Range: 11-14

Genre: Non-Fiction, History

Awards: Sheinkin won the 2020 Edwards Award, Horn Book Award Winner, National Book Award Finalist

Colleen read The Port Chicago 50 and this is what she thought…

On July 17, 1944, an ammunitions accident at the segregated Port Chicago Navy base killed hundreds of sailors. When the African American service men refused to continue moving explosives in unsafe work conditions they were charged with mutiny. This book details how racism plagued America as the nation fought for freedom abroad.

In reading this book, I appreciated hearing multiple voices because it creates a fuller picture of this historical event. I felt a sense of unease as the lack of safety precautions in Port Chicago became evident. It was dismaying to learn how African American service men and women had their rights and lives threatened by their fellow Americans. My favorite historical figure was Joe Small. It was fascinating learning about how Small became the de facto leader of the Port Chicago 50. He was a charismatic individual with a natural ability to lead others. Racism kept him from rising in the ranks, but his fellow sailors respected him and regularly sought his advice.

The main theme in The Port Chicago 50 is that racism impacts all areas of life, including the armed forces and the court system. The book takes the reader through the events leading up to the Port Chicago explosion and the mutiny court case that followed. The segregationist policies and racist ideology of the Navy led to the African American sailors being untrained in proper ammunitions handling.

Who would you recommend this book to?

This title is ideal for history buffs, particularly those interested in World War II, Civil Rights, and events skipped over by our history textbooks. The Port Chicago 50 is an engrossing historical Young Adult book.

Place a hold on the print copy here!

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