An important chapter in the civil rights movement, presenting 50 new heroes.

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THE PORT CHICAGO 50

DISASTER, MUTINY, AND THE FIGHT FOR CIVIL RIGHTS

On July 17, 1944, at the Port Chicago Naval Magazine 30 miles northeast of San Francisco, an explosion—the largest man-made explosion in history to that point—killed more than 300 men, leading to the largest mass trial in United States history.

“[B]efore Brown v. Board of Education or Truman’s executive order, before Rosa Parks or Jackie Robinson—before any of this, there was Port Chicago.” At Port Chicago, Navy ships were loaded with bombs and ammunition. All of the officers were white, and all of the sailors handling the dangerous explosives were black, with no training in how to do their jobs. When the huge explosion flattened the base, 320 men were killed, 202 of them black sailors who had been loading the ammunition. When it came time to resume work, 50 black sailors refused to work under the unsafe conditions on the segregated base and were charged with mutiny, with the possibility of execution. In this thoroughly researched and well-documented drama, Sheinkin lets the participants tell the story, masterfully lacing the narrative with extensive quotations drawn from oral histories, information from trial transcripts and archival photographs. The event, little known today, is brought to life and placed in historical context, with Eleanor Roosevelt, Thurgood Marshall and Jackie Robinson figuring in the story.

An important chapter in the civil rights movement, presenting 50 new heroes. (source notes, bibliography, acknowledgments, picture credits) (Nonfiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Jan. 21, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-59643-796-8

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: Nov. 20, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2013

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FIVE THOUSAND YEARS OF SLAVERY

Sandwiched between telling lines from the epic of Gilgamesh (“…the warrior’s daughter, the young man’s bride, / he uses her, no one dares to oppose him”) and the exposure of a migrant worker–trafficking ring in Florida in the mid-1990s, this survey methodically presents both a history of the slave trade and what involuntary servitude was and is like in a broad range of times and climes. Though occasionally guilty of overgeneralizing, the authors weave their narrative around contemporary accounts and documented incidents, supplemented by period images or photos and frequent sidebar essays. Also, though their accounts of slavery in North America and the abolition movement in Britain are more detailed than the other chapters, the practice’s past and present in Africa, Asia and the Pacific—including the modern “recruitment” of child soldiers and conditions in the Chinese laogai (forced labor camps)—do come in for broad overviews. For timeliness, international focus and, particularly, accuracy, this leaves Richard Watkins’ Slavery: Bondage Throughout History (2001) in the dust as a first look at a terrible topic. (timeline, index; notes and sources on an associated website) (Nonfiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: Jan. 11, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-88776-914-6

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Tundra Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2010

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Lyrical writing focuses on the aftermath of the Holocaust, a vital, underaddressed aspect of survivor stories.

BOY FROM BUCHENWALD

THE TRUE STORY OF A HOLOCAUST SURVIVOR

Following his liberation from the Buchenwald death camp, Romek didn’t know how to reclaim his humanity.

Romek’s childhood in his Polish shtetl of Skarżysko-Kamienna, where he was the youngest of six loving siblings, wasn’t wealthy, but it was idyllic. Skarżysko-Kamienna was “forests and birdsong,” with “the night sky stretching from one end of the horizon to the other.” His family was destroyed and their way of life obliterated with the Nazi invasion of Poland, and Romek lost not just memories, but the accompanying love. Unlike many Holocaust memoirs, this painfully lovely story begins in earnest after the liberation, when Romek was among 1,000 Jewish orphans, the Buchenwald Boys, in need of rehabilitation. Having suffered years of starvation, disease, and being treated as animals, the boys were nearly feral: They fought constantly, had forgotten how to use forks, and set fire to their French relief camp dormitory. Some adults thought they were irredeemable. With endless patience, care, and love, the mentors and social workers around them—themselves traumatized Holocaust survivors—brought Romek back from the brink. Even in a loving and protective environment, in a France where the boys were treated overwhelmingly kindly by the populace, it took time to remember goodness. Parallels between anti-Semitism and racism in the U.S. and Canada are gentle but explicit.

Lyrical writing focuses on the aftermath of the Holocaust, a vital, underaddressed aspect of survivor stories. (historical note, timeline) (Memoir. 12-14)

Pub Date: May 11, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5476-0600-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: March 25, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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