CAPTAIN BILL PINKNEY
CAPTAIN WILLIAM “BILL” PINKNEY
First Black man to Sail Solo Around the World via Cape Horn
Sailor-author-adventurer Bill Pinkney continues to carve out his role in history. In 1992, this Chicago native became the first black man to sail solo around the world, taking the southern route around the five great capes, through waters considered to be the most dangerous on the globe. In November 1998, he embarked on a second trip, setting sail from the Caribbean on an historic voyage to retrace the "Middle Passage" slave trade routes used during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
At the age of 50, Pinkney left his job as a marketing executive for Revlon to sail 27,000 miles around the world solo in a 22-month-long voyage in 1992. An established yacht racer, he was first motivated to make the trip as a way of encouraging his at that time, young grandchildren to understand the importance of education, and to learn such values as personal responsibility, perseverance, and commitment.
His project evolved into a corporate-sponsored enterprise that became a "floating classroom" for thousands of American schoolchildren. He named his boat Commitment, and through his courageous journey, became a living symbol of the adage, "Never give up on your dreams." The trip was covered in WCVB Boston special that earned the George Foster Peabody Award, and it also inspired the documentary film, The Incredible Voyage of Bill Pinkney narrated by Bill Cosby.
A charismatic, naturally gifted speaker and storyteller, Pinkney is now inspiring audiences nationwide with the story of his two remarkable voyages and their application to business and day to day living. Pinkney's five-month-long Middle Passage Voyage took him, his three-person crew, and a rotating group of American schoolteachers to six countries: Puerto Rico, Barbados, Brazil, Ghana, Senegal, and the United States. They traveled together on his 80-foot sailboat, and the teachers on board created hands-on teaching materials for schools across America. Pinkney's Middle Passage journey was a journey of personal discovery, as was his 1992 trip. At the core of his quest was to visit those African countries from where his slave ancestors left in chains, most never to return. "I'm a descendant of those who came in the hold...now having ascended to the wheel," says Pinkney. "I think...getting on an airplane and flying to Senegal, flying to Ghana, it's not the same as taking an ocean voyage knowing that the waters over which you pass contain the bodies of those who refused to leave the continent, and found the only way out was to go overboard."
The trip has been captured in a national prime-time PBS documentary “Voyages Home”. The preparations for the voyage, as well as a profile of Pinkney himself, were featured in a PBS documentary that aired on public television during the spring of 1999 and won an EMMY Award. These PBS programs are companions to an innovative multimedia Middle Passage educational initiative, the highlight of which were the teams of teachers
that accompanied Pinkney on each leg of the voyage. Among the other educational projects were videos that were shot during the trip for use by teachers and students; student interaction with Pinkney via telephone and e-mail; live Internet broadcasts; an interactive Web site; teacher guidebooks; and an exhibit on Pinkney created and hosted by Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry called "Winds of Change: Africa, The Americas, and the Sea." The principal sponsors of the educational projects associated with Pinkney's voyage, were Ford Motor Company, IBM, Abbott Laboratories, 3Com, and the U.S. Postal Service Great Lakes Area.
Pinkney continued his voyages as Master of the Freedom Schooner, AMISTAD www.amistadamerica.org. The vessel is a reproduction of the 129-foot ship and was built in Mystic, Connecticut as a tribute to the AMISTAD African captives who revolted for freedom, which they eventually won in a legal battle in the Supreme Court. The vessel is also as a floating classroom for the African-American history, maritime studies and human rights. The mission of AMISTAD is to tell the story of resistance, leadership, co-operation and the strength of the human spirit. As spokesperson Captain Pinkney has told the story on the Eastern Seaboard, Gulf Coast and the Great Lakes. After captaining the ship since its launch in 2000, he retired from the helm in November of 2003 to write and speak of his adventures and the lesson they have taught him. He has returned as Master Emeritus and Spokesman for the 2007-2008 Atlantic Freedom Tour of AMISTAD. He has traveled to London, Bristol and Liverpool in England, Cascais and Lisbon in Portugal, Barbados and Freetown, Sierra Leone, The Dominican Republic and Cuba presenting the story of the Incident and the vessel.
As a moving and entertaining inspirational presenter, “Captain Bill” has held awestruck 1st graders, educators and business professionals alike. His story of Cape Horn in storms and two months of total isolation blended with the lessons of life learned at sea provide and excellent backdrop for his presentations that have reached thousands at home and abroad.
several years of writing and reflection, Pinkney released his autobiography As
Long As It Takes: Meeting the Challenge.
The book details his life from growing up in Chicago’s “Bronzeville”, to his
careers in the Navy and with Revlon, and to his decision to leave it all behind
and become only the fifth American to sail around the world solo via the five
Capes in the Southern Ocean. Poet and Author Dr. Maya Angelou writes ; “As
Long As It Takes has it going on! It is a travel book of the first order. It is
an inspirational book to compare with any on the market today And finally, and probably at its most
charming, it is a delightful autobiography”,
Bill Cosby provides the introduction, and notes that “Bill Pinkney is one the
most important Americans.” The book is an inspiring work about following your
dreams with commitment and perseverance. Captain Pinkney is available for personal appearances, lectures, Inspirational presentations and workshops.