a new park, an old tragedy

On July 17, 1944, a munitions explosion at the Port Chicago Naval Magazine here in the Bay Area killed 320 sailors, most of them African American.  In the aftermath, 50 African American sailors were convicted of mutiny for refusing to work under similarly unsafe conditions at the nearby Mare Island Naval Shipyard.  The ensuing uproar, including a legal appeal by then-NAACP chief counsel Thurgood Marshall, led to an investigation of the Navy’s practice of assigning menial or dangerous tasks to minority sailors, and eventually resulted in the official desegregation of the United States military.  On October 29, 2009, President Obama signed the 2010 Defense Authorization Act, which among other things elevated the existing Port Chicago Naval Magazine National Memorial into the nation’s newest national park.   This will enable the National Park Service to enhance the site’s mission to preserve the memory of both the tragedy and its military and civil rights legacy.

This entry was posted on Thursday, November 12th, 2009 at 4:15 am and is filed under history. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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