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

Finalist, National Book Awards 2014 for Young People's Literature

Port Chicago 50 by Steve Sheinkin book cover
ISBN 9781596437968
Roaring Brook Press/ Macmillan Publishers
Steve Sheinkin author photo
Steve Sheinkin

Steve Sheinkin is the author of several histories for young readers, including Bomb: The Race to Build and Steal The World’s Most Dangerous Weapon, which was a 2012 National Book Award Finalist for Young People’s Literature and a Newbery Honor Book, and The Notorious Benedict Arnold, which won the YALSA Award for Excellence.  More about this author >

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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.

Judges Citation

Vivid and compelling, The Port Chicago 50 tells the story of fifty African American sailors in a strictly segregated U.S. Navy who stood up for their humanity and were charged with mutiny. In 1944, these servicemen peacefully refused to continue loading warships with bombs and ammunition under dangerously unsafe conditions. Exploring the national attitudes and personal histories behind this small, powerful act and its aftermath, Steve Sheinkin brilliantly illuminates a dim corner of American experience.