Port Chicago  –  Footnotes

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On This Page: More about Port Chicago and the Museum

Inclusion at Treasure Island Museum

The Treasure Island Museum is committed to inclusion and representation of the Bay Area communities that we serve. We strive to continue providing thought-provoking programming and engagement that will build stronger affirmative connections among all members of our community.

Our programming over the past few years has included:

  • Port Chicago: Drawn attention to this story and its place in the civil rights heritage of the Bay Area, including:

    • A partnership with the National Park Service and the S.F. Public Library to create the Port Chicago exhibition and install it in our Building One gallery​

    • Installation of the same exhibition by the S.F. Public Library at its Main Branch for the July 2019 75th anniversary of the explosion

    • Placing the exhibition online in response to the murder of George Floyd

    • A February 2019 symposium on Port Chicago

    • Assisting in a 2019 Black History Month program at One Treasure Island with civil rights attorney John Burris

    • Installing a copy of the exhibition at the Life Learning Academy charter school as the basis of a history class unit, courtesy of the S.F. Public Library

  • Lecture Series: Our monthly lecture series has presented programs on:​

    • Native American artists at the Golden Gate International Exposition​

    • Women at the fair

    • Grace Morley, champion of Central and South American art beginning at the fair, and first director of SFMOMA

    • LGBTQ history relating to Treasure Island (three lectures)

    • Mexican artists Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo

 

1944: Black Sailors on Treasure Island

 

The Masthead was the official weekly newspaper of the Treasure Island naval base, for over 50 years. 

A year and a half of Masthead issues spanning the last year of World War II and some following months is viewable online on our website.

The August 5, 1944 issue reported that two officers from Treasure Island attended "Memorial services held at Port Chicago for the officers and men missing in the recent explosion."

The following week, the headline on the front page was an "All T.I. Colored Dance." This story tells us a number of things about blacks in the Navy in 1944.

Masthead Dance.png

Black sailors were an important part of life on the base. The dance was the lead story for the week, with a long article and big photo spread. It was important enough to attract "Bojangles" Robinson, "the best known and the most highly paid black American entertainer in America during the first half of the twentieth century," who rushed to Treasure Island to entertain the sailors in between two theater performances in the city.

 

But the Navy was still segregated, and would be for another two years. So the dance was only for black sailors, and of course only for "Bluejackets," or enlisted men. Officers - white or black - did not fraternize with enlisted personnel.

 

Browsing through The Masthead, you can find other glimpses of racism in the World War II Navy, and many examples of blatant sexism. It seems like a different world from today, and in many ways it is. But some issues, although they might take different forms, haven't gone away.

The stained glass window at the top of these pages is part of the collection removed from the Port Chicago Memorial Chapel.

 
 

Port Chicago Reading List

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