DeSaulnier commemorates 77th Anniversary of the Port Chicago Disaster

U.S. House seeks exoneration for Port Chicago 50

DeSaulnier commemorates 77th Anniversary of the Port Chicago Disaster
Friends of Port Chicago at a 2021 ceremony to mark the anniversary of the disaster with Congressperson Mark DeSaulnier (right).

CONTRA COSTA COUNTY, CA (July 19, 2022) — The U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution on July 14 that would direct the secretary of the Navy to publicly exonerate the Port Chicago 50.

This comes 78 years after the July 17, 1944, explosion at the Port Chicago Naval Magazine near Concord that killed or injured 435 Black munitions sailors. Fifty Black sailors were convicted of mutiny after standing against racial discrimination after the accident.

“Fulfilling our nation’s founding promise of equality and justice for all requires confronting our past and working to right historical injustices,” said Congressperson Mark DeSaulnier of Concord, who helped spearhead the effort with Congressperson Barbara Lee.

The cargo vessel explosion accounted for more than 15 percent of all Black Naval casualties during WWII and was the deadliest home front disaster during the war. While white officers were given time off, Black sailors were forced to return to the same unsafe working conditions that killed their colleagues.

After 50 of these men refused, they were charged and convicted of mutiny.

“It is our duty to call out this racial discrimination and ensure history recognizes them as heroes, not criminals,” Lee said. “Only when we right the wrongs of our history and directly confront the impact of systemic racism can we move forward and begin to heal as a nation.”

The resolution was included in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which passed the House 329-to-101. The NDAA now moves to the Senate.

This year’s NDAA also had two measures DeSaulnier authored to support veterans. One will help protect veterans from discrimination in the mortgage market, and the other will improve the Veterans’ Affairs home loan program.