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October 08 , 2010

Black Sailor, White Navy

Racial Unrest in the Fleet during the Vietnam War Era


It is hard to determine what dominated more newspaper headlines in America during the 1960s and early ‘70s: the Vietnam War or America’s turbulent racial climate. Oddly, however, these two pivotal moments are rarely examined in tandem.

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John Darrell Sherwood has mined the archives of the U.S. Navy and conducted scores of interviews with Vietnam veterans — both black and white - and other military personnel to reveal the full extent of racial unrest in the Navy during the Vietnam War era, as well as the Navy’s attempts to control it. During the second half of the Vietnam War, the Navy witnessed some of the worst incidents of racial strife ever experienced by the American military. Sherwood introduces us to fierce encounters on American warships and bases, ranging from sit-down strikes to major race riots.

The Navy’s journey from a state of racial polarization to one of relative harmony was not an easy one, and Black Sailor, White Navy focuses on the most turbulent point in this road: the Vietnam War era.

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