The Nation’s Largest African American Video Oral History Collection Mobile search icon Mobile close search icon
Advanced Biography Search
Mobile navigation icon Close mobile navigation icon

Capt. William "Bill" Pinkney

Share on Social Media

Information about Capt. William "Bill" Pinkney

Profile image of Capt. William "Bill" Pinkney

Profession

Category:
EducationMakers
Occupation(s):
Cultural Heritage Educator

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Soft Tones
Favorite Food:
Peach, Soufflé (Wild Strawberry)
Favorite Time of Year:
Summer
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Anywhere
Favorite Quote:
Never let a chance go by.

Birthplace

Born:
9/15/1935
Birth Location:
Chicago, Illinois

Profession

Category:
EducationMakers
Occupation(s):
Cultural Heritage Educator

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Soft Tones
Favorite Food:
Peach, Soufflé (Wild Strawberry)
Favorite Time of Year:
Summer
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Anywhere
Favorite Quote:
Never let a chance go by.

Birthplace

Born:
9/15/1935
Birth Location:
Chicago
See how Capt. William "Bill" Pinkney is related to other HistoryMakers

Biography

The first African American to solo-circumnavigate the world via Cape Horn, William Pinkney was born on September 15, 1935, in Chicago. Attending public schools in Chicago, Pinkney joined the U.S. Navy after graduating from high school in 1954.

After having served for eight years in the Navy, Pinkney became involved in the cosmetics industry, first as a freelance make-up artist, then, in 1973, as a marketing manager for Revlon. In 1977, Pinkney became the director of marketing at John Prod, another cosmetics company. Going to work for the city of Chicago in 1980, Pinkney took a post as a public information officer with the Department of Human Services, from which he retired in 1983.

Throughout the course of his career, Pinkney's real passion remained sailing. Having sailed the Great Lakes and oceans for more than thirty years, Pinkney decided to embark on a solo trip around the globe in 1990. Pinkney's route took him around the dangerous tip of South America, considered to be some of the most treacherous waters in the world; upon successfully realizing his dream, he was honored as the Chicago Yacht Club's Yachtsman of the Year in 1992, and Chicago Magazine named him Chicagoan of the Year in 1999.

Combining his passion for sailing with his interest in history, particularly naval voyages of the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries, Pinkney's next adventure was aboard the Freedom Schooner Amistad. In January 1999, Pinkney and his crew set out to retrace the Middle Passage slave trade routes; the purpose of the project was to educate people about the original Amistad, as well as about the slave trade and human rights. Pinkney teamed up with PBS and several corporations to create a television special, and to bring teachers from across the country on board en route so that they could experience the trip firsthand.

Pinkney also wrote a first-grade textbook, Captain Bill Pinkney's Journey, which appeared in more than 5,000 schools across the country. Pinkney was honored by senators, former President George Bush, and foreign dignitaries for his dedication to education and his numerous other accomplishments. Pinkney was a trustee of Mystic Seaport, a museum devoted to the history of America's interactions with the sea; and as a director of the American Sail Training Association.

Pinkney and his wife, Migdalia, were longtime residents of Connecticut.

See how Capt. William "Bill" Pinkney is related to other HistoryMakers
Click Here To Explore The Archive Today!
  • Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of William Pinkney interview
  • Tape: 1 Story: 2 - William Pinkney lists his favorites
  • Tape: 1 Story: 3 - William Pinkney describes his immediate family
  • Tape: 1 Story: 4 - William Pinkney shares childhood memories of Chicago
  • Tape: 1 Story: 5 - William Pinkney recalls his elementary school years
  • Tape: 1 Story: 6 - William Pinkney remembers growing up with his siblings and cousin
  • Tape: 1 Story: 7 - William Pinkney discusses his religious affiliation
  • Tape: 1 Story: 8 - William Pinkney remembers his father's mental illness
  • Tape: 1 Story: 9 - William Pinkney describes the Chicago he knew as a youth
  • Tape: 2 Story: 1 - William Pinkney recalls Chicago's thriving black community
  • Tape: 2 Story: 2 - William Pinkney remembers his grandfather
  • Tape: 2 Story: 3 - William Pinkney recounts his high school years at Tilden Technical High School
  • Tape: 2 Story: 4 - William Pinkney explains his decision to join the Navy
  • Tape: 2 Story: 5 - William Pinkney describes his experience in the Navy
  • Tape: 2 Story: 6 - William Pinkney recalls his high school extracurricular activities
  • Tape: 2 Story: 7 - William Pinkney explains why he left the Navy
  • Tape: 2 Story: 8 - William Pinkney remembers his years in Puerto Rico
  • Tape: 2 Story: 9 - William Pinkney explains his decision to pursue makeup artistry
  • Tape: 3 Story: 1 - William Pinkney recalls his involvement in make-up artists' unions
  • Tape: 3 Story: 2 - William Pinkney discusses some of his cosmetics projects
  • Tape: 3 Story: 3 - William Pinkney talks about black artists in NABET
  • Tape: 3 Story: 4 - William Pinkney remembers his recruitment by Revlon
  • Tape: 3 Story: 5 - William Pinkney recounts his return to New York
  • Tape: 3 Story: 6 - William Pinkney recalls his resignation from Revlon
  • Tape: 3 Story: 7 - William Pinkney discusses his brief tenure with the Chicago Department of Human Services
  • Tape: 3 Story: 8 - William Pinkney remembers his early involvement in sailing
  • Tape: 4 Story: 1 - William Pinkney explains his attraction to the sailing community
  • Tape: 4 Story: 2 - William Pinkney discusses the idea behind his sailing trip
  • Tape: 4 Story: 3 - William Pinkney recalls the problem of funding his sailing trip
  • Tape: 4 Story: 4 - William Pinkney details the planning of his around-the-world sailing trip
  • Tape: 4 Story: 5 - William Pinkney remembers meeting Knox Johnson
  • Tape: 4 Story: 6 - William Pinkney discusses the learning experiences inherent in sailing
  • Tape: 5 Story: 1 - William Pinkney shares the philosophical and scientific experience of sailing
  • Tape: 5 Story: 2 - William Pinkney recalls conquering his fears and making his trip a success
  • Tape: 5 Story: 3 - William Pinkney remembers the recognition of his accomplishment
  • Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Slating of William Pinkney interview (day two)
  • Tape: 6 Story: 2 - William Pinkney recalls the planning and execution of his first circumnavigation of the globe
  • Tape: 6 Story: 3 - William Pinkney discusses the role of his medical team
  • Tape: 6 Story: 4 - William Pinkney explains his lack of schedule on board
  • Tape: 6 Story: 5 - William Pinkney relates how he was able to stretch his physical and mental limits
  • Tape: 6 Story: 6 - William Pinkney compares his experience to that of Mark Schrader
  • Tape: 6 Story: 7 - William Pinkney remembers the impact of his circumnavigation trip on his career
  • Tape: 7 Story: 1 - William Pinkney describes some of the strange and amazing phenomena one encounters at sea
  • Tape: 7 Story: 2 - William Pinkney explains the purpose of adventure
  • Tape: 7 Story: 3 - William Pinkney recalls his desire to sail the middle passage
  • Tape: 7 Story: 4 - William Pinkney recounts the planning for his middle passage voyage
  • Tape: 7 Story: 5 - William Pinkney remembers Warren Mar and the Amistad project
  • Tape: 8 Story: 1 - William Pinkney discusses African maritime industry
  • Tape: 8 Story: 2 - William Pinkney recalls the documentaries of his middle passage voyage
  • Tape: 8 Story: 3 - William Pinkney remembers the building of the Amistad replica
  • Tape: 8 Story: 4 - William Pinkney shares his future plans
  • Tape: 8 Story: 5 - William Pinkney discusses being a role model
  • Tape: 8 Story: 6 - William Pinkney considers his legacy
  • Tape: 8 Story: 7 - William Pinkney discusses the story of black in the maritime industry