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

“We must not be delayed by people who say ‘the time is not ripe’. Persons who deny to us our civil rights should be brought to justice now.” – Thurgood Marshall

port chicago 50

Synopsis from Goodreads: 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. 

Feelings: I’ll be honest with you…non-fiction is nowhere near my reading wheelhouse. Sometimes, I get stuck in the jargon or the dense language and I feel like I’m reading a textbook. Something I noticed immediately about this book is the way that it reads. I became quickly invested in the people it was about, the strife they faced, and the historical impact of these issues. I also loved the pictures sprinkled throughout, giving me visuals as I went along.

I experienced a full range of emotions while reading. There were some moments that made me chuckle, I did some smiling, then I was furrowing my brow or shaking my head, even tearing up at the end. I love a book that can take me on an emotional journey, but I wasn’t expecting to get that from this book. Non-fiction doesn’t typically move me so.

When I finished reading, I felt like I’d just read about a majorly important historical event. And yet, I hadn’t ever heard of it before picking up this book. It’s such a shame! The epilogue really paints the picture of how this event kickstarted the Civil Rights movement that history remembers. What’s heartbreaking is that even today, after all 50 “mutineers” have died, they are still convicted of a crime they never committed. This is not the America that I love.

Issues: The only issue I had with this book was that the middle was a little slow going, once they got to the trial. I read this book in less than 2 days, so it honestly didn’t slow me down by much. But if I have to choose an issue, it would be this part of the book.

Final thoughts: If you tend to steer clear of non-fiction, then this is a great book for you to try out. It’s geared towards younger readers, so it strips away all extra information, sticking to exactly what you need to know. This book inspired me to branch out in my reading more, which is a win!

Pick this up if you liked:

Bomb: The Race to Build – and Steal – the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin

The Notorious Benedict Arnold: A True Story of Adventure, Heroism, & Treachery by Steve Sheinkin

Unbroken: A WWII Story of Survival, Resilience, & Redemption by Laura Hillebrand

Goodreads rating: 4.05/5

Amazon.com rating: 4.7/5

My rating: 4.75/5

Happy reading! – Caitlyn

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2 thoughts on “The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights by Steve Sheinkin

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