Captain Bill Pinkney

Captain Bill Pinkney: First Black Man to Sail Solo Around the World Honored for His Exploits

Trailblazing Sailor’s Legacy Celebrated in Chicago

Captain William “Bill” Pinkney, the Bronzeville sailor who made history as the first Black man to sail solo around the world, will be honored with a prestigious ceremony in Chicago.

This Sunday marks 32 years since Pinkney’s pioneering voyage, an extraordinary feat that shattered barriers and inspired generations.

An Ordinary Man, An Extraordinary Journey

Pinkney, who passed away last August at the age of 87, overcame immense challenges to achieve his remarkable accomplishment.

Born in 1935 at Provident Hospital in Bronzeville, he faced rampant racism throughout his life, including humiliating incidents during his childhood and ostracization from white crewmates during his time in the U.S. Navy.

However, as his wife Migdalia Pinkney eloquently stated, “Those things shaped and formed who he became.”

“Bill was an ordinary man who did extraordinary things. And he made sure that he represented everyone. And he made sure that he encouraged everyone,” said Migdalia Pinkney, the late sailor’s wife.

Inspiring a Generation of Sailors

Pinkney’s remarkable journey began on August 5, 1990, when he departed from Boston, embarking on a solo circumnavigation of the globe.

After an incredible 22 months at sea, he returned to Boston on June 9, 1992, having achieved a historic feat. His legacy has inspired countless individuals, including Lance Lovely, a sailor from Woodlawn who became the first Black person to sail the 6,000-mile Great American Loop in 2016.

JP Beaty, a documentary producer and close friend of Pinkney, emphasized the sailor’s profound impact, stating, “Bill Pinkney is my captain and my hero and a very, very close friend of mine. He is like my brother. He had truly contributed to the world beyond sailing.”