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Black History Month Program: The Port Chicago Trial

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February 9, 2019                          Lighting the Fuse to Civil Rights

1:00 pm - 4:30 pm                        The Port Chicago Trial at Treasure Island

Treasure Island Museum            Reservations suggested - click here 

                                                         Press Release and Media Advisory - click here.

This Black History Month program presents one of the earliest steps forward toward civil rights, part of which took place on Naval Station Treasure Island, in the city of San Francisco.

75 years ago, during World War II, a massive explosion at the Port Chicago Naval Magazine near Concord killed 320 people, most of them African-American sailors ordered to load explosives with no training  and inadequate equipment and safety precautions.

Weeks later, 50 sailors refused to resume that work. Their ensuing mutiny convictions, in a trial held on Naval Station Treasure Island, shone a spotlight on racism in the military, leading 16 months later to the desegregation of the Navy, and two years later all the armed services.

The Treasure Island Museum, in partnership with the Port Chicago Naval Magazine National Memorial, the San Francisco Public Library and the Friends of Port Chicago Memorial, presents a lecture and symposium on Port Chicago.


The program will present the story of the disaster and trial. A panel of experts will discuss how these events contributed to the mid century modern civil rights movement, and how they inform issues still being dealt with today.

An exhibition on Port Chicago will be on view in the Building One lobby from January 26 through July 9, presented by the S.F. Public Library and the Port Chicago Naval Magazine National Memorial.  More ...


The Port Chicago Story:  Oak Dowling, JD, Instructor, Dominican University

Panel Discussion:  The trial, its consequences and its place in history.

  • Prof. Rhonda Magee, USF School of Law

  • Prof. James Taylor, USF Dept. of African American Studies

  • Kelli English, Chief of Interpretation, Port Chicago Naval Magazine NMem

  • David Salniker, Board Member, Friends of Port Chicago National Memorial

  • Moderator: Mary Wardell-Ghirarduzzi, Vice Provost for Diversity Engagement and Community Outreach, USF

Location: At the museum, in the lobby of Building One at the entrance to Treasure Island.  The island can be reached by public bus, car or bicycle.  If possible, please use ride sharing or public transportation for this event.

Reservations are suggested to help us make sure you have seating.  Use the form below or go to  Groups please email

Admission is free. We would appreciate a voluntary tax-deductible donation of $15 or more, with your registration or using the gray button at the left.


Port Chicago and Treasure Island History:

Treasure Island is a place whose history does not stay in the past. It resonates in the present and informs future choices.


Following the mutiny convictions, advocates like NAACP counsel Thurgood Marshall wrought societal change through publicity using the media of the 1940’s. Today, citizens with smartphones advance social justice on YouTube and Twitter, and athletes like Colin Kaepernick, in the words of Nike’s 2018 campaign, ”[b]elieve in something, even if it means sacrificing everything,” just as the Port Chicago Fifty did 75 years ago.

Again and again on Treasure Island, threads of history continue through the present and into the future. Issues including social justice, diversity, art, innovation, great civic undertakings and military service are rooted in the island's history and reflected in concerns of today and tomorrow.  Lectures in the museum's "Little Island, Big Ideas" series continue to examine this heritage.

Construction Notice:  As redevelopment progresses, street and transit access and parking will be in flux. At this time, Building One parking is open, but the closest Muni 25 stop is at California Ave. and Ave. D, two blocks away.  Also, on August 12, 2018, the Muni 25 stop in downtown San Francisco will move to Bay 29 on Bus Deck Level 3 of the Salesforce Transit Center located at Mission Street and Fremont Street. 

The “Little Island, Big Ideas” lecture series is presented with support from the Treasure Island Development Authority and funding from the Historic Preservation Fund of the City and County of San Francisco, Office of Economic and Workforce Development.

* - The image at the top of the page is a stained glass window that was removed from the  Port Chicago Memorial Chapel.  It is one of six that Commanding Officer Captain R. Owens commissioned for the 1991 renovation of the Chapel of the Good Shepherd, built on April 23, 1980. The image is based on a photograph of African American sailor loading munitions as a white officer looks on. The man bending over in the center is Port Chicago survivor Percy Robinson.  The window is now stored in the collection of the Port Chicago National Historic Site, National Park Service, and the image is used with their permission.

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