Beacon Press: The Golden Thirteen
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The Golden Thirteen

How Black Men Won the Right to Wear Navy Gold

Author: Dan C. Goldberg

The story of the 13 courageous black men who integrated the officer corps of the US Navy during World War II—leading desegregation efforts across America and anticipating the civil rights movement

Through oral histories and original interviews with surviving family members, Dan Goldberg brings 13 forgotten heroes away from the margins of history and into the spotlight. He reveals the opposition these men faced: the racist pseudo-science, the regular condescension, the repeated epithets, the verbal abuse and even violence. Despite these immense challenges, the Golden Thirteen persisted—understanding the power of integration, the opportunities for black Americans if they succeeded, and the consequences if they failed.

Until 1942, black men in the Navy could hold jobs only as cleaners and cooks. The Navy reluctantly decided to select the first black men to undergo officer training in 1944, after enormous pressure from ordinary citizens and civil rights leaders. These men, segregated and sworn to secrecy, worked harder than they ever had in their lives and ultimately passed their exams with the highest average of any class in Navy history.

In March 1944, these sailors became officers, the first black men to wear the gold stripes. Yet even then, their fight wasn’t over: white men refused to salute them, refused to eat at their table, and refused to accept that black men could be superior to them in rank. Still, the Golden Thirteen persevered, determined to hold their heads high and set an example that would inspire generations to come.

In the vein of Hidden Figures, The Golden Thirteen reveals the contributions of heroes who were previously lost to history.
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“[An] inspiring story. . . . Goldberg delivers a gripping account of the brutal two-month accelerated course taught by mostly white officers, who often made it clear they hoped the men would fail. . . . Revealing accounts of highly admirable men working diligently within an unedifying episode in American history.”
Kirkus Reviews

“Journalist Goldberg debuts with a carefully documented chronicle of efforts to fully integrate the US Navy during WWII. . . . Goldberg skillfully interweaves his exhaustive account of the pressure campaign for equality with profiles of the individual sailors, showcasing their remarkable equanimity in the face of discrimination. This stirring portrait shines a well-deserved spotlight on a little-known victory in the fight for civil rights.”
Publishers Weekly

“[Goldberg] shares fresh interviews and employs robust research to add clarity and depth to the vital history of some of the first black naval officers during World War II. Goldberg’s research and analysis are rigorous, responsible, and fair in his assessment of the disappointing military and political leaders as well as of the brave visionary members of the media, military, and government . . . . Goldberg shares new and important information mined from the digital archives of the Black press of the 1940s. . . . Goldberg does a masterful job of revealing the inspiring stories of resilience and character exhibited by the talented men he wrote about. . . . I recommend Dan Goldberg’s fine book.”
—Commander Jim Jackson, US Navy (Retired), Proceedings

The Golden Thirteen is the book all Americans need to read. This is a must-read for anyone interested in race, service, heroism, the civil rights movement, and the power of a few brave men to change the course of American history.”
—Christina M. Greer, author of Black Ethnics

“Thanks to the research and writing skills of Dan Goldberg, no more will they be forgotten.”
—Arthur Browne, author of One Righteous Man

“Deeply researched and very well written, Dan Goldberg’s work offers a long overdue homage to the first black officers commissioned in a white man’s navy.”
—Richard A. Serrano, author of Summoned at Midnight

“These heroes were all but forgotten. Until now.”
—Linda Hervieux, author of Forgotten: The Untold Story of D-Day’s Black Heroes, at Home and at War

“Using the oral history interviews of Golden Thirteen members as a springboard, author Dan Goldberg has done an impressive amount of additional research. The result is that his well-written book provides additional details about the men themselves. Even more importantly, the account paints a vivid portrait of the deep-seated racism that afflicted the Navy and the nation at large during the 1940s. That backdrop gives needed context to appreciate the achievements of the thirteen men in overcoming age-old obstacles to realizing true democracy. They constituted a remarkable group of pioneers who opened doors for the generations of African American naval officers that have followed.”
—Paul Stillwell, US Navy Officer (Ret.), historian

“We’re sending you up to Great Lakes.”

“Don’t put your time in Negroes.”

“I just don’t believe you can do the job.”

“We are discriminated against in every way.”

“Would it be demanding too much to demand full citizenship?”

“A cordial spirit of experimentation”

“As good as any fighting men the US Navy has”

“You are now men of Hampton.”

“I feel very emphatically that we should commission a few negroes.”

“You can make me an officer, but my parents made me a gentleman.”

“His intelligence and judgment are exceptional.”

“You forget the color and you remember the rank.”

“There is that salute you never got.”


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The Golden Thirteen

ISBN: 978-080702158-3
Publication Date: 5/19/2020
Size:6 x 9 Inches (US)
Price:  $28.95
Format: Cloth
Availability: In stock.
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