WASHINGTON (KRON) – A measure that would direct the Secretary of the United States Navy to exonerate 50 Black sailors who were convicted of mutiny for fighting racial discrimination during the Second World War has passed the U.S. House of Representatives and is moving on to Senate consideration.
Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (D-Richmond) had been pushing to seek justice for the Port Chicago 50, according to a press release from his office. Port Chicago is in Contra Costa County.
“Fulfilling our nation’s founding promise of equality and justice for all requires confronting our past and working to right historical injustices,” DeSaulnier stated. “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.”
The Port Chicago 50 were charged and convicted of mutiny when they refused to return to unsafe working conditions that killed or injured 435 Black sailors on July 17, 1944 when a cargo vessel exploded as they were loading munitions. White sailors had been given time off.
Some 15% of all African American Naval casualties during the war were due to this incident, which was the deadliest home front disaster during the war.
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Oakland) also stated her support for the measure.
“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,” Lee stated. “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.”
The measure passed as part of the National Defense Authorization Act, which passed 329-101.