A broad coalition of veterans, religious, civil rights and political groups is calling on President Barack Obama to use his executive powers to exonerate the 50 black sailors convicted of mutiny 71 years ago following the explosion at the Port Chicago Naval Magazine.
- The Port Chicago 50: President Obama must right a WWII wrong – San Francisco Chronicle Opinion (August 22, 2015)
- Bay Area lawmakers ask Obama to exonerate black Port Chicago sailors convicted of mutiny – Contra Costa Times (August 21, 2015)
The diverse coalition is seeking justice for the men whose conviction and imprisonment following the disaster – the worst lost of life on the Homefront during World War II – helped pave the way for the desegregation of the military by President Truman.
The signatories note the President’s broad powers to exonerate those accused unjustly, and pointed to his recent decisions to grant of clemency, as well as other actions to reverse past military convictions in which race played a significant role, as it did at Port Chicago. “We plead for your intervention to provide justice to the 50 black sailors, justice that was denied them in 1944 and in the 70+ years since that tragedy,” the letter reads.
One year ago, on the 70th anniversary of the tragedy, the President sent a letter to those who gather annually to commemorate the loss of 320 lives in the explosion which destroyed the naval facility and the surrounding town on July 17, 1944. “African-American service members at Port Chicago and at posts around the world defended America with valor and distinction, even when their country did not treat them with the dignity and respect they deserved,” Obama wrote. “Faced with tremendous obstacles, they fought on two fronts – for freedom abroad and equality at home.”