The “Court-martial proceedings were one of the worst frame-ups we have come across.”
Thurgood Marshall -NAACP Counsel

“It has been a major struggle for many of the men to talk about Port Chicago and the day of July 17, 1944.”
Sandra Evers-Manly - President, Black Hollywood Education & Resource Center

On July 17, 1944 at 10:18 pm, two explosions, with a force equal to the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, nearly leveled the Port Chicago area. Two military cargo ships loaded with ammunition and the entire Port Chicago waterfront (located in the East Bay area outside of San Francisco) vanished. Three hundred and twenty men died from the blast, 202 of them – black men. Hundreds of others were physically and emotionally injured for life. The cause of the blast was never determined. After spending several weeks picking up the remains of their fellow seamen, the surviving black sailors were ordered to return to work on August 9, 1944 to load ammunition at a nearby base (Mare Island) under the same unsafe working conditions that existed previously. Fearful that another blast might happen, 258 of the black seamen refused to go back to work and were consequently imprisoned on a barge. Several days later, after being threatened with the death penalty, 208 of the black seamen agreed to return to work. The remaining 50 were charged with mutiny, an act punishable by death.

The Black Hollywood Education and Resource Center (BHERC) will commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Port Chicago Blast beginning on Thursday, July 15 in Northern California. The survivors and their family members will attend memorial services at the blast site, the former Port Chicago Naval Base in the East Bay area and at the site of the burial grounds in San Bruno, California, where twenty four graves were laid for the 320 men. The commemoration will close on Sunday, July 18, 2004 in Los Angeles. The event, to be held at the Norris Theater at USC from 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm will include a musical tribute, film screening and words from some of the survivors.

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