The Golden Thirteen: How Black Men Won the Right to Wear Navy Gold

Dan Goldberg (Author)


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.

Product Details

$28.95  $26.63
Beacon Press
Publish Date
May 19, 2020
6.2 X 9.1 X 1.3 inches | 1.25 pounds

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About the Author

Dan C. Goldberg is an award-winning journalist for Politico. Goldberg has researched the Golden Thirteen for 8 years to restore these men to their rightful place in history.


"[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 U.S. 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

"The Golden Thirteen is the book all Americans need to read. Black servicemen have consistently served this country with bravery and valor, and Dan Goldberg intricately lays out the contributions of Black soldiers who have been leaders, crusaders, champions, and fighters in the quest for racial equity in our armed forces and our nation more broadly. His analysis introduces us to patriots who have paved the way for new generations of men and women in the United States armed forces. These Black Navy men fought our adversaries abroad. In doing so, they were an inspiration for their communities at home while simultaneously overcoming racism at the hands of their own countrymen while abroad. 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: Race, Immigration, and the Pursuit of the American Dream

"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. Theirs was a battle on two fronts--leading other sailors during the Second World War while confronting stubborn, often frightening racial inequality at home. Yet the men stood tall in their gold stripes, taking some of the initial steps in this nation's civil rights movement. All thirteen prevailed; heroes all."
--Richard A. Serrano, author of Summoned at Midnight: A Story of Race and the Last Military Executions at Fort Leavenworth

"The Golden Thirteen is the inspiring tale of World War II sailors thrust by fate into defeating the rampant racism that infected even their commander in chief--and how they prevailed to become the US Navy's first black officers. Thanks to the research and writing skills of Dan Goldberg, no more will they be forgotten."
--Arthur Browne, author of One Righteous Man: Samuel Battle and the Shattering of the Color Line in New York

"As we mark the seventy-fifth anniversary of the end of World War II, Daniel C. Goldberg reminds us that integration didn't come easily in the US Navy. With systemic racism trickling from the top down, it was a brutal experience for African American sailors and officers who sought to serve their country in a meaningful manner. Goldberg's excellent and impeccably researched The Golden Thirteen chronicles the painful journey of the trailblazing black officers who shattered the Navy's color barrier. Too humble to tout their own place in history--and living in a nation that undervalued their achievements--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