Port Chicago 50

The Port Chicago 50 : disaster, mutiny, and the fight for civil rights, by Steve Sheinkin


Publishing Information: New York : Roaring Brook Press, 2014.

Pages: 200
Ages: Age 12+

Annotation: Presents an account of the 1944 civil rights protest involving hundreds of African-American Navy servicemen who were unjustly charged with mutiny for refusing to work in unsafe conditions after the deadly Port Chicago explosion.

Summary: An astonishing civil rights story from Newbery Honor winner and National Book Award finalist Steve Sheinkin. 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.

Subject Headings:

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

Starred Reviews:

Publishers Weekly, 11/11/2013

Kirkus, 12/15/2013

SLJ, Feb 2014

Discussion Questions and Ideas:

  1. What is a hero?  

  2. Why do you think Shienkin began Port Chicago with Dorie Miller’s story?  What qualities define Miller?

  3. Why do you think the story of the Port Chicago 50 is not widely known?  Should it be?

  4. What do you know about the labor movement?  Did this have impact or influence those involved in the book?

  5. Does this story use songs for protest? Discuss musicians and songs that highlights human and civil rights violations


Related Websites:

•Music that highlights human rights and civil rights violations:  http://musictodiefor.wordpress.com/50-greatest-protest-songs/

•Background information on World War II: http://www.history.com/topics/world-war-ii

•History of Labor Movement: http://www.history.com/topics/labor

•Letters from African American soldiers during World War II trying to affect changehttp://education.ucsb.edu/webdata/instruction/hss/Generalizations/Wright...

Suggestions from the Mcmillan



Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom: My Story of the Selma Voting Rights March, by Lynda Blackmon Lowery

Courage Has No Color: The True Story of the Triple Nickles, America's First Black Paratroopers, by Tanya Lee Stone

Imprisoned: The Betrayal of Japanese Americans during World War II, by Martin W. Sandler

Other Works by the Author:


Lincoln’s Grave Robbers

Most Dangerous

About the Author:

Steve Sheinkin is the award-winning author of several captivating books on American history and the Newbery Honor Winner and National Book Award Finalist for Bomb. He lives in Saratoga Springs, New York.