On this day, 134 years ago, a cycling legend was born: Marshall “Major” Taylor.
Born in rural Indiana in 1878, Taylor was a pioneer in American sport — not just in bicycling. Shattering cycling records even as a teenager, Taylor was the first African-American athlete to achieve the level of world champion and only the second black man to win a world championship. But, even more than his impressive victories on the track, Taylor was a trailblazer for equity in sport.
According to the Major Taylor Bicycling Club of Minnesota: “What made [Taylor's] accomplishments even more impressive was the fact that he was a black man who overcame open racism and overt threats of violence by those who did not want to see him succeed, because track cycling at that time was dominated by the Europeans. He established several world records during his 16 years of competition. In the 168 races in which he competed, he finished first in 117 and finished second in 32.”
As Taylor himself acknowledged in his autobiography: “In most of my races I not only struggled for victory but also for my very life and limb. Only my dauntless courage and the indomitable fighting spirit I possessed allowed me to carry on in the face of tremendous odds.”
That courage and spirit continues to inspire cyclists today, with dozens of Major Taylor cycling clubs in communities nationwide.
Let’s all take a moment today to tip our helmets to a true leader of our movement.
Carolyn SzczepanskiCarolyn joined the League in March 2012, after two years at the Alliance for Biking & Walking. In addition to managing the League's blog, magazine and other communications, Carolyn organized the first National Women's Bicycling Summit and launched the League's newest program: Women Bike. Before she crossed over to advocacy, she was a professional journalist for nearly 10 years.