Port Chicago 50 Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights by Steve Sheinkin
Port Chicago 50 is an interesting non-fiction read. It is the true account of the segregated naval base of Port Chicago in World War II. Black men were allowed to join the navy, but weren't allowed to be on a ship, be armed or in any combat. Port Chicago was an explosives loading base that was one of the only places the navy would place their black naval soldiers. The men were untrained in handling these highly explosive cargo, but were pushed to work harder and faster to keep up with quotas. After a huge explosion destroyed the docks and killed many men, over 200 refused to go back to work until their safety concerns were addressed. After punishment, direct orders, and threats from superior officers, many went back to work, but 50 men remained.
Through interviews with many of the men who survived the explosion and with many of the 50 who were jailed and faced execution, prejudices are unveiled that I was unaware of, and insight into government policy and how the actions and consequences of these 50 men refusing to work changed history for black Americans.
Although a little dry and repetitive at times, I was intrigued because it is a true story. Whenever I read about the prejudice and discrimination black citizens faced in this century, I am always appalled, but relieved we have come so far in the last 50 years. It is a good book, but if I look at this through the lens of a teacher and recommending books to kids, Illusive gets my vote as it would appeal to a wider audience of readers.