Home Contra Costa County Congressman DeSaulnier Passes Effort to Exonerate the Port Chicago 50

Congressman DeSaulnier Passes Effort to Exonerate the Port Chicago 50

Press Release

by ECT
Rep Mark DeSaulnier

DeSaulnier Also Passes Provisions to Support Veterans

Washington, DC – Congressman Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11) announced he successfully passed a measure that would direct the Secretary of the United States Navy to publicly exonerate the Port Chicago 50, the 50 African American sailors wrongfully convicted of mutiny after standing against racial discrimination in the Navy during World War II.

The effort was included in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) (H.R. 7900) which passed the U.S. House of Representatives by a vote of 329-to-101. The passage of the effort comes almost seventy-eight years to the day after the devastating explosion at the Port Chicago Naval Magazine in Port Chicago, California on July 17, 1944. The NDAA now moves to the U.S. Senate for consideration.

“Fulfilling our nation’s founding promise of equality and justice for all requires confronting our past and working to right historical injustices,” said Congressman DeSaulnier. “I have been proud to spearhead the effort with Congresswoman Lee to bring justice to the Port Chicago 50. This is an important step toward addressing the systemic racism in our history. I urge the Senate to pass this measure and restore the Port Chicago 50’s service records and the honor they deeply deserve.”

“When 50 African American sailors at Port Chicago boldly stood against discrimination and refused to return to unsafe work conditions, they were treated horribly by the Navy and convicted of mutiny,” said Congresswoman Lee. “It is our duty to call out this racial discrimination and ensure history recognizes them as heroes, not criminals. I am proud to have passed this effort recognizing the Port Chicago 50’s courage and calling for their public exoneration. 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.”

After experiencing segregation in the Navy, 435 African American munitions sailors, who were not properly trained or supported by the Navy, were killed or injured when a cargo vessel exploded as they were loading munitions. This incident accounted for more than 15 percent of all African American Naval casualties during WWII and was the deadliest home front disaster during the war. While White officers were given time off, African American sailors were forced to return to the same unsafe working conditions that killed their colleagues. When 50 of these men understandably refused, they were discriminately charged and convicted of mutiny.

Since coming to Congress, Congressman DeSaulnier has been actively working to seek justice for the Port Chicago 50, including through previous amendments to the NDAA and in introducing a resolution to exonerate the sailors.

Also passed in this year’s NDAA were two measures authored by Congressman DeSaulnier to support veterans, one by helping to protect veterans from discrimination in the mortgage market and the other to improve the Veterans’ Affairs home loan program to ensure as many veterans as possible benefit from it.

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