Black was born February 8, 1924 in Plainfield, New Jersey. He won a baseball scholarship to Morgan State University and graduated in 1950. Black was called up to the major leagues in 1952 and was chosen National League Rookie of the Year after winning 15 games and saving 15 others.
On October 1, 1952, Black became the first black pitcher to win a World Series game when he pitched the Brooklyn Dodgers to a 4 to 2 victory over the New York Yankees. That year was the highlight of his five year major league career and he retired with a record of 30 wins and 12 losses. After his playing career in baseball ended, Black worked in the baseball commissioner’s office advising players on career choices and became an executive with the Greyhound Bus Company.
Black’s biography, “Meet the Real Joe Black,” was published in 2010. Also in 2010, the Washington Nationals began to annually present the Joe Black Award to a Washington area organization chosen for its work promoting baseball in African American communities. The award recognizes Black as the first African American player on the Washington Senators.