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William

Pinckney

1935

Captain William “Bill” Pinckney was the first African American to solo-circumnavigate the world via Cape Horn (the hard way). Pinckney was honored by senators, former President George Bush, and foreign dignitaries for his dedication to education and his numerous other accomplishments.

William Pinckney was born on September 15, 1935, in Chicago. Attending public schools in Chicago, Pinckney joined the U.S. Navy after graduating from high school in 1954.
After having served for eight years in the Navy, Pinckney became involved in the cosmetics industry, first as a freelance make-up artist, then, in 1973, as a marketing manager for Revlon. In 1977, Pinckney became the director of marketing at John Prod, another cosmetics company. Going to work for the city of Chicago in 1980, Pinckney 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, Pinckney’s real passion remained sailing. Having sailed the Great Lakes and oceans for more than thirty years, Pinckney decided to embark on a solo trip around the globe in 1990. Pinckney’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, Pinckney’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. Pinckney 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.

Pinckney also wrote a first-grade textbook, Captain Bill Pinckney’s Journey, which appeared in more than 5,000 schools across the country. Pinckney 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.

Honors and Accomplishments:

  • Chicago Yacht Club’s Yachtsman of the Year in 1992
  • Honored by senators, former President George Bush, and foreign dignitaries for his dedication to education and his numerous other accomplishments.
  • Trustee of Mystic Seaport Museum
  • A past director of the American Sail Training Association.
  • Chicago Magazine named him Chicagoan of the Year in 1999.
  • n January 1999, Pinkney teamed up with PBS and several corporations and he and his crew set out to retrace the Middle Passage slave trade routes on the Freedom Schooner Amistad. The purpose of the project was to educate people about the original Amistad, as well as about the slave trade and human rights.
  • Pinkney also wrote a first-grade textbook, Captain Bill Pinkney’s Journey, which appeared in more than 5,000 schools across the country.

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