1999 Regular Session

To: Rules

By: Representatives Saucier, Scott (80th), Bailey, Banks, Blackmon, Bozeman, Broomfield, Brown, Chaney, Clark, Clarke, Coleman (29th), Coleman (65th), Ellis, Evans, Flaggs, Fleming, Fredericks, Gibbs, Green (96th), Henderson (26th), Henderson (9th), Holland, Huddleston, Hudson, Johnson, King, Middleton, Morris, Myers, Perkins, Roberson, Robinson (63rd), Ryan, Straughter, Thomas, Thornton, Wallace, Watson, West, Young

House Concurrent Resolution 173


WHEREAS, in 1942, the United States Navy built Port Chicago, a naval ammunition base located 30 miles northeast of San Francisco for the loading and shipping of ammunition to troops fighting the Japanese in the Pacific; and

WHEREAS, all of the sailors performing the extremely dangerous job of loading the munitions were African-American and the commanding officers overseeing the loading were white; and

WHEREAS, the lack of official training and written guidelines meant that these men had to learn on the job the handling of volatile explosives, which eventually led to disaster; and

WHEREAS, on July 17, 1944, two munition ships, the E.A. Bryant and the Quinalt Victory, exploded while being loaded with bombs, shells and depth charges, killing instantly everyone on the pier and aboard the two ships; and

WHEREAS, this explosion was the biggest home-front disaster of World War II and resulted in an amazing 15% of all African-American casualties sustained during the war; and

WHEREAS, shortly after the disaster, a Navy Court of Inquiry cleared all white officers of responsibility and charged the African-American sailors claiming the rough handling of munitions caused the explosion; and

WHEREAS, traumatized by the horrible explosion, 258 ammunition loaders, all of whom were African-American, refused to return to work that was considered too dangerous for white sailors; and

WHEREAS, the Navy responded to the work stoppage by imprisoning the men on the barge for three days, and eventually, all but 50 African-American sailors returned to loading ships; and

WHEREAS, the 50 sailors who refused to return to work were court-martialed, convicted of mutiny and imprisoned until the end of the war; and

WHEREAS, after the war, with the help of the NAACP and a young lawyer named Thurgood Marshall, the sentences of the 50 African-American sailors were significantly reduced, but not overturned:

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES OF THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI, THE SENATE CONCURRING THEREIN, That we do hereby memorialize the President of the United States to pardon those 50 African-American sailors convicted in the Port Chicago mutiny.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, That copies of this resolution be furnished to the President of the United States and members of the Mississippi Congressional Delegation.