RIALTO, CA- The story of Freddie Meeks, a California resident, and Port Chicago a time in history; dare to remember…
It’s July 17 in Port Chicago, California, a cool summer Friday night at a munitions naval base 30 miles North of San Francisco. The year is 1944 and World War II is in full swing. According to a United States Navy report, “The actual work of loading ammunition and explosives aboard the ships was performed exclusively by Afro-Americans under the supervision of White officers and Afro-American petty officers,” and the routine assignment of Afro-American enlisted personnel to manual labor was clearly motivated by race and premised upon the mistaken notion that they were intellectually inferior and thus incapable of meeting the same standards as their white counterparts.”
But then the unspeakable happened, explosion after explosion – so fierce, it shook the ground with the force of an earthquake. Knocking out windows and shaking buildings as far east as Boulder City, Nevada. The results of the explosion at the naval facility killed or wounded 710 people, 435 of whom were African American. This single disaster accounted for more than 15 percent of all African American naval casualties during World War II.
What happened next is even more mind-boggling than the explosion itself? Following the explosion, many of the African-American survivors, expected to be granted survivors, leave before being reassigned to regular duty, but that leave was not granted, even for those who had been hospitalized. All African-American men were sent back to work loading ammunition under the same officers as before.
Fifty sailors of the United States Navy, all African-American men, refused to resume loading activities under the same conditions and were ultimately tried and convicted of mutiny for failing to obey orders. Thurgood Marshall, then chief counsel for the NAACP, was reported to state he saw no reason why the men should be tried for mutiny, which implies a mass conspiracy, rather than on lesser charges of individual subordination, and blasted the trial by stating that the defendants were being tried for mutiny “solely because of their race and color.” Virtually all of the convicted sailors were released from prison early in 1946 and were given a general discharge from the Navy “under honorable conditions.”
In 1999, Freddie Meeks was pardoned by President Bill Clinton in recognition of the injustice he suffered as one of the convicted sailors, and at the time of his pardon, Mr. Meeks said, “After all these years, the world should know what happened at Port Chicago. It should be cleared up that we did not commit mutiny, and we were charged with that because of our race”. In July 11, 2016 the Assembly Joint Resolution No. 33 was filed with the Secretary of State – it would pardon all of the members of the Port Chicago 50.
Dennis Rowe Entertainment is proud to present Port Chicago 50, a story of love for Country, the American Dream and a quest for Equality and Fairness.
Unbelievable…Emotional…Dramatic…Thought Provoking are some words audiences have used to describe Port Chicago 50. Broadway Producer Woody King, Jr. said “The actors and designers did an excellent job” and Linda Armstrong from New York’s Amsterdam News exclaimed “Everyone should see this show!”
Port Chicago 50 is a must see for everyone and will be a weekend of historical enlightenment! The powerful story is co-written by David Shackelford and Dennis Rowe, and directed by Dennis Rowe. Port Chicago 50 does use some strong language. Port Chicago 50 is presented by Dennis Rowe Entertainment from Los Angeles, California.
The play will kick off on Friday, December 1 in Rialto. To claim you discount on your tickets, please use PROMO code: “IMPROVE.”