William Edward White

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
William Edward White, seated second from right with the 1879 Brown University varsity baseball team.
William Edward White
First baseman
Born: October 1860
Milner, Georgia
Died: March 29, 1937 (aged 76)
Chicago, Illinois
Batted: Unknown Threw: Unknown
MLB debut
June 21, 1879 for the Providence Grays
Last MLB appearance
June 21, 1879 for the Providence Grays
Career statistics
Games played 1
Runs 1
Hits 1

William Edward White (1860–1937) was a 19th-century baseball player. He played as a substitute in one professional baseball game for the Providence Grays of the National League, on June 21, 1879.[1]

Work by the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) suggests that he may have been the first African-American to play major league baseball, predating the longer career of Moses Fleetwood Walker by five years; and, Jackie Robinson by 68 years.[2][3][4][5][6]

Very little is known about White, who replaced the regular first baseman, Joe Start, after the latter was injured. White was a student of Brown University, who played for the college's team. 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 Hall of Famer "Orator Jim" O'Rourke.[7]

Research conducted in 2003 by SABR has suggested that the William Edward White who took the field that day was the son of a plantation owner from Milner, Georgia, Andrew Jackson White, and his black slave, Hannah. 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 White. 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 stipulates that they be educated in the North. If the research by SABR is correct, then William Edward White was not only the first black player in the major leagues, but also the only former slave to do so.[2] Unlike the Walker brothers, White passed as white and did not face the racism prevalent in the late 19th century.

According to 1900 and 1910 census records, White (the former Brown student and ballplayer) moved to Chicago and became a bookkeeper. He is listed there as having been born in Rhode Island and being white. 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." It is not certain that this is the same man.[8]


  1. ^ Baseball Reference
  2. ^ a b The Providence Journal, February 15, 2004: "Who was the first black man to play in the major leagues?"
  3. ^ Robert Siegel, "Black Baseball Pioneer William White's 1879 Game," National Public Radio, broadcast Jan. 30, 2004 (audio at npr.org)
  4. ^ Stefan Fatsis, "Mystery of Baseball: Was William White Game's First Black?" Wall Street Journall, Jan. 30, 2004 (online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB107541676333815810)
  5. ^ Peter Morris and Stefan Fatsis, "Baseball's Secret Pioneer: William Edward White, the first black player in major-league history," Slate, Feb. 4, 2014
  6. ^ Rick Harris, Brown University Baseball: A Legacy of the game (Charleston: The History Press, 2012), pp. 41-3
  7. ^ *ESPN.com, January 30, 2004 "Was William Edward White really first?"
  8. ^ "NPR", Black Baseball Pioneer William White's 1879 Game.