On July 17, 1944, explosions at the Port Chicago Naval facility near Concord killed 320 men, 202 of them African-Americans assigned to loading munitions onto cargo ships. Following the tragedy, white sailors were granted leave while African-American sailors were ordered to return to duty at Mare Island Naval Shipyard. Fifty sailors mutinied, refusing to work in the same hazardous conditions that caused the explosion. The Navy convicted the "Port Chicago 50," as the group came to be known, and sentenced them to up to 15 years hard labor. After serving two years, the group was granted clemency. Today, Bay Area lawmakers are urging Obama to go beyond clemency and offer these men exoneration.
Bay Area Lawmakers Push for Exoneration of Port Chicago 50
(National Park Service Digital Image Archives)
David Salniker, founding board member and treasurer, Friends of the Port Chicago National Memorial
J. Vern Cromartie, professor of sociology, Contra Costa College