The Port Chicago 50|Steve Sheinkin
The Port Chicago 50 : Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights
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An astonishing World War II military story of civil rights from New York Times bestselling author and Newbery Honor recipient Steve Sheinkin.

A National Book Award Finalist
A YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction Finalist
A School Library Journal Best Book of the Year

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.

The Port Chicago 50 is a fascinating story of the prejudice and injustice 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.

This thoroughly-researched and documented book can be worked into multiple aspects of the common core curriculum, including history and social studies.

"Sheinkin delivers another meticulously researched WWII story, one he discovered while working on his Newbery Honor book, Bomb...Archival photos appear throughout, and an extensive bibliography, source notes, and index conclude this gripping, even horrific account of a battle for civil rights predating Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr." --Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Also by Steve Sheinkin:

Bomb: The Race to Build--and Steal--the World's Most Dangerous Weapon
The Notorious Benedict Arnold: A True Story of Adventure, Heroism & Treachery
Undefeated: Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School Football Team
Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War
Which Way to the Wild West?: Everything Your Schoolbooks Didn't Tell You About Westward Expansion
King George: What Was His Problem?: Everything Your Schoolbooks Didn't Tell You About the American Revolution
Two Miserable Presidents: Everything Your Schoolbooks Didn't Tell You About the Civil War
Born to Fly: The First Women's Air Race Across America


  • ISBN-13: 9781596437968
  • ISBN-10: 1596437960
  • Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
  • Publish Date: January 2014
  • Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.3 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.05 pounds
  • Page Count: 208
  • Reading Level: Ages 10-14

Little boys and girls, join hands

Remembering the sacrifices and successes of African Americans—from unexpected champions of civil rights to talented performers who dreamed big—is one of the most inspiring ways to celebrate Black History Month. If we keep teaching our children well, racism just may someday be a thing of the past.


In The Port Chicago 50, Steve Sheinkin, author of the Newbery Honor book Bomb, tells the harrowing story of the fight for the lives and rights of 50 black sailors. 

On July 17, 1944, more than 300 sailors were killed and almost 400 were injured when several thousand tons of explosives aboard two ships detonated at the Port Chicago naval base in California. When the surviving sailors went back to work, they refused to obey orders to load munitions again. They were too scared to do such a dangerous job without the proper training. It was also worrisome that no white sailors were ordered to load munitions at Port Chicago. Charged with mutiny and facing the death penalty after their continued refusal, the sailors became unsung heroes in the heated battle for racial equality.

Painstakingly researched through recorded interviews, The Port Chicago 50 vividly recounts the fear and anxiety surrounding the explosion. From 17-year-old sailors to respected, 23-year-old informal leader Joseph Smalls, Sheinkin provides powerful first-hand accounts of these events. Long, complicated court transcripts and documents are presented as edge-of-your-seat drama. 

Sheinkin does an admirable job describing for young readers the profound impact these sailors had on civil rights and the integration of the Navy. This is a fascinating read on an important event in U.S. history.