Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Fall Reading 2013 The Port Chicago 50

Steve Sheinkin does an excellent job of retelling the story using photographs and quotes from those involved. What he says at the end of the book, that there are no statues of those young men, no one knows them as Civil Rights heroes, but their trial led to the integration of servicemen of all backgrounds - that is a sad reflection on that period of history. Throughout the story Mr. Sheinkin creates a vivid mental picture for the reader of what life was like for African Americans, both in civilian life and in the military. The treatment of men who volunteered to serve their country and were then segregated with separate barracks, dining facilities (including being made to eat cold leftovers after the white servicemen were through with their meals), and the limited training or positions open to them is disgraceful. The section at the end of the book that outs the trial in context with Jackie Robinson's military career and later Major League baseball career, the Montgomery Bus Boycott, and Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision is very useful for the classroom. Many students see these as separate things and don't always understand the "big picture" of what was happening in those years.

I would recommend this to middle school and high school classes in social studies, history, or related subjects. During the chapters about the trial a phrase with the initials m.f. appears several times, which would make elementary school teachers a bit leery of using the book (even though the phrase is quoted during the trial and shown to be used by the prosecution to make the defendants seem more mutinous and combative). Those who have read the author's multiple award-winning Bomb, will agree this is another well-done piece of nonfiction.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley. It will be released in January 2014.
The author's website has information about his other books.

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