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Sheinkin, Steve.
New York : Roaring Brook Press, 2014
IL 5-8, RL 6.4
ISBN 1596437960

(3 booktalks)

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Booktalk #1

On July 17, 1944, in the midst of World War II, there was a major explosion at Port Chicago in California. Over 300 servicemen were killed and countless more were injured. It was in this port that hundreds of black servicemen were ordered, day after day, to load ammunition onto ships despite the fact that they were never trained how to properly handle such dangerous cargo. The men handling this cargo knew it was only a matter of time before an accident occurred. This deadly accident triggered a series of events that no one anticipated. On August 9, 1944, the servicemen of Port Chicago were ordered to resume loading ammunition. Joe Small, one of the black servicemen, simply would not continue to load ammunition. He was scared of what might happen and he believed the black servicemen were being singled out for this dangerous job. Others followed Joe’s lead and would not load ammunition. This group was charged with mutiny and faced a death sentence if found guilty. The Port Chicago 50 provides a riveting account of the events leading up to and following the explosion and sheds light on this little known tragedy and the trial that ensued. He reveals the layers of racism and prejudice facing black Americans in the armed forces and in daily life in the United States. This is a compelling read about a little known, but very significant event in United States history.
   (Dorothy Canfield Fisher Book Award DCF 2015 - 2016)

Booktalk #2

What happens the days after a massive explosion at the Port Chicago Naval base on July 17, 1944 shows the inequalities of sailors in the United States during WWII. 50 African Americans were considered mutineers for not following orders to return to loading ammunition on the docks, after 320 men died that fateful July day. Follow how this story changes the course of history and segregation in the armed forces.  (Oklahoma Sequoyah Award, 2017)

Booktalk #3

Mutiny: an open rebellion by soldiers or sailors against their officers.

In the 1940s an American solider charged with mutiny could be sentenced to death by firing squad. Given that punishment, what could possibly cause a solider to mutiny? How about imminent danger? Or systematic racism? During World War II many African Americans wanted to join the war effort. Although allowed, they were limited to menial jobs and were kept in segregated units. Many black Navy men found themselves at Port Chicago in California where they were given the job of loading bombs on to ships. This already dangerous job was made even more so by commanding officers who gave essentially no training and pushed their sailors to work at unsafe speeds. Under these conditions it should have been no surprise when a massive explosion happened on July 17, 1944, killing 320 people and injuring hundreds more. Imagine being a survivor. Then, imagine being told to go back to work under the same horrible conditions. What would you? Mutiny might not seem so outrageous anymore.  (Kirsten Gunn, NBCT Teacher-Librarian

Highline High School, Burien, WA, Evergreen Teen Award, 2017)

SUBJECTS:    African American sailors -- History -- 20th century.
                        African Americans -- Civil rights -- History -- 20th century.
                        Port Chicago Mutiny Trial, San Francisco, Calif., 1944.
                        Port Chicago Mutiny, Port Chicago, Calif., 1944.
                        United States. Navy African Americans -- History -- 20th century.
                        World War, 1939-1945 -- Participation, African American.

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