The Port Chicago 50 by Steve Sheinkin

Before the massive Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, a group of fifty African-American Navy sailors took a stand against their white superiors to demand fair and safe working conditions. In 1944, an ammunition loading station in Port Chicago was destroyed by an explosion of the ammunition caused by unsafe working practices. All of the sailors assigned to load the ammunition were black, and no white sailor had ever been assigned to that duty. When a group of black sailors stood up for their right to a safe working environment and refused to load ammunition, they were branded as mutinous and were kept for months on a prison barge. Using his signature fast-paced storytelling and a mix of photographs and historical documents, Sheinkin tells the story of the fifty early Civil Rights Activists who helped changed military racial policy forever.

I was excited to read a Sheinkin book because of reputation he has for producing fast-paced, fictionesque nonfiction. This one did not disappoint! I was unfamiliar with the Port Chicago disaster, but I did not feel lost at all while reading and was totally sucked into the story. The treatment and trial of the fifty men who refused to work in unsafe conditions was ridiculous and definitely a topical subject in modern times. Sheinkin tells an amazing story, complete with historical pictures and documents. If you’re looking for some new nonfiction, give this one a shot!

*Rating: 4/5

*National Book Award Finalist
For full analysis (including flags and SPOILERS) click here.

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