Saturday, December 6, 2014

The Port Chicago 50 (the explosion)

Work and Liberty

The Work...

The men at Port Chicago described the scene on the loading pier as frantic, stressful, loud, chaotic - bombs rolling and clanking together, winch engines chugging and smoking, nets swinging through the air, sailors shouting and cursing, officers urging the men on.
"We were all afraid of an explosion," Small later said. "But there was very little that you could do about it. I mean, you had a day's work to do." 

The Liberty…

"It was just a one-street place," Robert Routh remembered; a few restaurants, a movie theater. "They didn't want blacks there at all. The townspeople didn't care for blacks."
"We're suppose to be fighting the same enemy," he (the black sailor) thought. "I don't know who my enemy is."
When he'd joined the Navy, people told him, "You're fighting for your freedom!"
Now he wondered: "Where's the freedom?" 

Have you ever been put into a situation that you felt was unsafe? If so, what did you do?

The Lawyer

There were an enormous amount of rights abuses reported by African American soldiers and sailors, but Thurgood Marshall did his best to demand that the country did more to protect black men in uniform.

In the Constitution, all Americans, regardless of race, are afforded the same basic rights. The Fourteenth Amendment specifically forbids states from denying any citizen "equal protection of the laws." Segregation and discrimination were unconstitutional, and Thurgood Marshall became a lawyer in order to prove it in court.

The segregation and discrimination in the Armed Forces were a mirror of American society at the time. For many people, the explosion on July 17th and the mutiny proceedings that followed became a symbol of what was wrong with American society as a whole. The consequences of the explosion would begin to reshape the way the Navy and society thought about civil rights and social standards.

Hot Cargo

The working conditions grew increasingly dangerous. The men were being pushed too hard. And, on July 17th, rather than loading one ship, two ships were docked at the pier. It was a recipe for disaster.

The Explosion
"Oh my God, we're being bombed!" someone shouted.

At 10:18pm a massive blast was felt all over the Bay Area in California. Seismographs recorded the explosion as a small earthquake.

The pier was gone. Both ships were gone. Buildings were destroyed. Smoke and fire rose nearly two miles into the air. 320 people were killed and 390 others were injured, nearly all were African American sailors.

Let's continue…

Read the chapters entitled The Inquiry, Column Left, Prison Barge, and The Fifty by December 13th.

When is doing something wrong right?

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