On My Bookshelf: The Port Chicago 50 by Steve Sheinkin

May 08, 2017

The Port Chicago 50 by Steve Sheinkin focuses on a little known event in American history. This narrative nonfiction novel is a fascinating story of the prejudice and injustice that faced black men and women in America's armed forces during World War II. Read on for more of my review and ideas for classroom application.
The basic plot from Amazon: 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.


The Port Chicago 50 by Steve Sheinkin focuses on a little known event in American history. This narrative nonfiction novel is a fascinating story of the prejudice and injustice that faced black men and women in America's armed forces during World War II. Read on for more of my review and ideas for classroom application.



Why I liked it: Just like Steve Sheinkin's other nonfiction works, The Port Chicago 50 reads like
a good story. The author used interviews to write this narrative nonfiction about a little known event in history. The book highlights the issues surrounding segregation in the military and Thurgood Marshall, who went in to become a Supreme Court justice, is an important character.

Classroom application: The book could be used as part of a history unit on WWII or the Civil Rights Movement, read during Black History Month, or incorporated into a unit on heroes.

The book would connect well with other real life or fictional court cases: the Scottsboro boys, Tom Robinson's case in To Kill a Mockingbird, or even the film A Few Good Men. Students could also research the most common reasons for honorable discharges over time.

If you are interested in purchasing a copy of  The Port Chicago 50 for yourself, you can find it on Amazon here.

For more reading suggestions for students and teachers:



Note: The Literary Maven is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

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