MONDAY was the first day of Black history month so in homage to all athletes of color I thought I’d write a bit about Major Taylor.
I’M guessing you may be asking yourself: “Major who?”
MARSHALL Walter “Major” Taylor (born 1878, died 1932) was an American professional cyclist. By winning the sprint at the 1899 world track championships (held in Montreal, Canada) he became the first African-American to acheive world-champ status in cycling and the second African-American world champion in ANY sport.
THE first, in case you’re wondering, was George Dixon, a bantamweight boxer born in Canada, who won his title in 1891.
MR. Taylor was also an American sprint champion (1900) and a member of several teams, including the See-Saw Cycling Club (love that name, so apropos), an amateur team; and the Iver Johnson’s Arms & Cycle Works (a professional team). Gotta love that too! Iver Johnson manufactured guns, bikes and motorcycles; an interesting combination but oh so American in its diversity.
HE did most of his racing between 1896 and 1904 and after a 2 1/2 year break he returned to competition for a short time in 1907. He retired at the age of 32 to Worcester (Massachusetts), where he moved as a teenager after being raised in Indianapolis.
HE accomplished a lot more than I’ve mentioned in this post. To learn more about him click here, and be sure to take a look at the “Major Taylor biography at a glance.”
WHAT a stud! I can’t even imagine the rigors of professional cycling today, let alone at the end of the 19th, and beginning of the 20th, century. And as a Black man he must have withstood prejudice that most of us cannot even contemplate. As a person of Jewish heritage I experienced some bullying early in my life but being white I know it wasn’t anything close to what people of color had to endure, and still do.
THANK you Major for being a pioneer not just for American cyclists but for all athletes of color. I hope to meet you some day in that great velodrome in the sky.
IN the meantime I’ll wear “your shirt” with pride and remember those athletes like you who paved the way and still inspire us to be better versions of ourselves.