Contact: Sue Fritzke, Deputy Superintendent, 510-837-9629
Contact: Keith Kamisugi, 415-874-5550
CONCORD, Calif. (June 26, 2014) – The National Park Service and the Friends of Port Chicago National Memorial will present two events on July 17 and 19 highlighting a tragic disaster 70 years ago in Concord, Calif., during World War II that helped promote the desegregation of the United States military.
In July of 1944, the largest U.S. mainland explosion of World War II destroyed the Navy's Port Chicago Magazine (now called the Military Ocean Terminal Concord), instantly killing 202 African American sailors working in a segregated munitions loading crew. An additional 118 merchant marines, other military personnel and civilians also died. Hundreds more were wounded.
The subsequent refusal of fifty of the surviving sailors to resume loading munitions until their safety could be assured resulted in the most significant mutiny trial in our history. Their cause, supported by Eleanor Roosevelt and Thurgood Marshall, contributed to the desegregation of the Navy and later the entire military.
Port Chicago Naval Magazine National Memorial was created by Congress in 1994 by legislation authored by Congressman George Miller (D-Martinez) and signed by President Bill Clinton. On October 28, 2009, President Barack Obama signed into law a bill authored by Congressman Miller that made the Memorial a full and permanent unit of the National Park System.
Events Commemorate 70th Anniversary
The National Park Service and the Friends of Port Chicago National Memorial, invite the public to participate in two events commemorating the historical significance of the Port Chicago disaster and its impact on African American history and the United States Armed Services.
The Port Chicago Disaster at 70: A Symposium on Race and the Military During World War II
Presenters at the event will include: Leon Litwack (Professor Emeritus of History, University of California at Berkeley, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for "Been in the Storm So Long: the Aftermath of Slavery"); Maggi Morehouse (Associate Professor of History at Coastal Carolina University, author of "Fighting in the Jim Crow Army: Black Men and Women Remember World War II"); Carolyn Johnston (Professor of History and American Studies at Eckerd College, author of "My Father's War: Fighting with the Buffalo Soldiers in World War II"); Steve Sheinkin (Author of "The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny and the Fight for Civil Rights"); J. Vern Cromartie (Professor of Sociology at Contra Costa College); and moderated by John A. Lawrence, former Chief of Staff to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Robert Allen (Adjunct Professor, Retired, of African American Studies at University of California at Berkeley, author of "The Port Chicago Mutiny").
The symposium is free, but registration is required by signing up online at http://portchicagomemorial.org
The symposium is sponsored by Diablo Valley College , The Burroughs Fund at Coastal Carolina University, and Bingham McCutchen LLP.
Public Commemoration Event and Tours of S.S. Red Oak Victory Ship
The second event, a public commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the Port Chicago disaster is scheduled for Saturday, July 19, from 10 a.m. to Noon, at Shipyard #3 of the historic Kaiser Shipyards, where the S.S. Red Oak Victory Ship is permanently moored.
The Red Oak Victory is of the same class of ship lost in the Port Chicago explosion in 1944. In addition to ship tours, the event on July 19 will feature Port Chicago films, and presentations in commemoration of the disaster and its aftermath.
The commemoration is free and open to the public. Visitors will be able to board and tour the Red Oak Victory, but the ship is not accessible to people with mobility limitations.
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Media Contact for July 17 Symposium
Media Contact for July 19 Public Commemoration
Sue Fritzke, Deputy Superintendent
Last updated: February 28, 2015