At the conclusion of THE PORT CHICAGO 50, author Steve Sheinkin points outthat the fifty defendants in this racist miscarriage of military justiceare all now deceased, and so it is too late to fully remedy what was done tothem. Nevertheless, as the author notes, there are people who know thestory who are still seeking to exonerate the names of these men.Taking Sheinkin’s point as an opportunity to make a difference, I decidedto write to First Lady Michelle Obama. I am hoping that she will bothencourage her daughters to read this exceptional story and encourage herhusband to take steps to clear the names of these fifty black soldiers whoseactions played a role in jumpstarting the U.S. Civil Rights Movement.I likewise encourage you to read THE PORT CHICAGO 50, to share it withyoung people, and to send your own email messages to Mrs. Obama via thewhitehouse.gov site.Dear Mrs. Obama:Perhaps back in one your African American studies classes at Princeton,you learned something about the Port Chicago 50. Perhaps you didn't. I am ahuge fan and student of American history, but I had never heard this storyinvolving segregated black naval units, stationed here in the SanFrancisco Bay area at Port Chicago during WWII, assigned to load bombs onto ships.I do know all about these men now, thanks to the recently-published bookfor young people, THE PORT CHICAGO 50: DISASTER, MUTINY, AND THE FIGHT FORCIVIL RIGHTS by Steve Sheinkin. Mr. Sheinkin, has come to be one of myfavorite storytellers of American history for young people and has been winningquite a few awards along the way for his well-researched books. Ienthusiastically recommend that you read this book and share it with yourdaughters.We learn that the white officers who commanded the black units who werecarrying out this extremely dangerous work made a horse race out of the workby placing bets on how many tons of bombs the various divisions could loadonto the ships. The officers then pressured the divisions to work evenfaster. This cavalier attitude toward safety and the expendability of blacksoldiers led to a tragedy in 1944 in which 320 men were killed in a massiveexplosion felt 30 miles away in Berkeley.In response, despite threats of being shot for disobedience, fifty braveservicemen in the segregated units refused to resume loading bombs underthese oppressive conditions. The farce of a military proceeding that followedfound them all guilty of treason and sentenced them to hard labor. WhileThurgood Marshall’s efforts eventually resulted in a mitigation of thesentences, the records of these fifty men have never been cleared.Having grown up watching news of the Civil Rights Movement unfold, I foundyour husband’s election to be a powerful and fulfilling experience. Yet Ikeep learning about the unfinished business in our nation’s history. Thestory of the Port Chicago 50, which preceded our lifetimes and yetcontributed to the movement that was so important in our own era, has a final chapterwaiting to be written: exonerating the names of these servicemen.It would be so perfect if these victims of racism were posthumouslyvindicated by our nation's first black president. I am therefore hoping that youmight read Mr. Sheinkin's book and help write this final chapter.
Best wishes,Richie PartingtonRichie Partington, MLIS
Recommended by: Richie Partington, MLIS, California USA
See more of his recommendations: http://richiespicks.com
978-1-59643-796-8 208 pages