- Search The Registry
- Teacher’s Forum
- Youth Programs
- About Us
- Creating Support
- My Account
William White (1879)
*The birth of William White is celebrated on this date 1860. He was a 19th-century Black baseball player.
William Edward White was the son of a plantation owner from Milner, Georgia, Andrew Jackson White, and his Black slave, Hannah. Brown University records give Milner as the student's birthplace, and the only person of his name listed in the 1870 census was a 9-year-old Mulatto boy who was one of three children living with his mother Hannah. All three of these children are named in A.J. White's 1877 will, which described them as the children of his servant Hannah White and stipulated that they be educated in the North.
White was a student at Brown University and played for the college's team. On June 21, 1879, he played as a substitute in one professional baseball game for the Providence Grays of the National League.Very little is known about White, who replaced the regular first baseman, Joe Start, after the latter was injured. He went 1-for-4 and scored a run as Providence won 5–3. It is unknown why White did not play for the Grays again. He was replaced in the next game by future Hall of Famer "Orator Jim" O'Rourke. Work by the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) suggests that he may have been the first Black to play major league baseball, predating the longer careers of Moses Fleetwood Walker and his brother Weldy Walker by five years; and Jackie Robinson by 68 years.
SABR's research indicates that that William White was not only the first Black player in the major leagues but may also have been the only former slave. Unlike the Walker brothers, White passed as white and did not face the dangerous racism prevalent in the late 19th century. According to 1900 and 1910 census records, White moved to Chicago and became a bookkeeper. The 1920 census, however, indicates that there was then a 60-year-old William E. White living in Chicago, whose parents were born in Georgia, and whose race was listed as "Black." William White died on March 29, 1937.