Today’s guest poster

As part of Black History month, my son’s 4th grade class was asked to write a couple of paragraphs on a famous black athlete they admire.  Most of the kids immediately took Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan, or some other contemporary athlete.  My son asked if he could do a little research and get back to his teacher.  She agreed.

Completely on his own, my son conducted his own research and wrote the following essay. It is proudly reprinted with his permission.  If you like the story, please link to it.  I did not know Major Taylor ever existed and it is about time he got a little publicity.  Also, Team Major Taylor could use a little boost as well.

Thanks son.

Athletes are Made of Heart

Major Taylor

Born Marshall Walter Taylor on November 26, 1895 in Indianapolis Indiana, he was one of eight children.  His father was a coachman, employed by a wealthy white family.  The family liked Taylor and got him his own bike.  Taylor learned to ride his bike very well and earned money doing tricks on his bike.  He got his nickname Major Taylor by wearing a military uniform while performing tricks outside a bike shop in Indianapolis.  The shop owner encouraged Taylor to start racing.  At 13, he won his first race.

His first professional race was a six day race at Madison Square Garden.  He finished eighth.  The next year, in Montreal, Taylor, who was 19, became the second African-American athlete to win a world championship in any sport by winning the one-mile sprint title.  He dominated in the U.S. and then went to Europe, Australia, and New Zealand, defeating the best cyclists Europe had to offer.  Taylor was also the 1-mile record holder, and three time U.S. sprint champion (1898,1899, 1900)

Taylor accomplished this while also battling predjudice.  In the South, he was banned from racing.  The League of American Wheelmen refused his membership.  He was disqualified from many races after winning by race officials.  He just kept racing.

Taylor retired from racing in 1910 and failed in his two businesses.  He died at the age of 53 in the charity ward of Cook County Hospital in Chicago on June 21, 1932 and was buried in an unmarked grave.  In 1948, a group of former pro bike racers, with money donated by Schwinn Bicycle Company founder Frank Schwinn, had Major Taylor buried in a proper way.

Major Taylor continues to make an impact today.  There are many bike clubs across the country named after Major Taylor.  One of those is Team Major Taylor who provides educational scholarships for its all African-American team.


14 Responses to Today’s guest poster

  1. Daniel M says:

    Just so you know, there is also a velodrome in Indianapolis named for Major Taylor.


    – Rant

  2. Phil says:

    Lovely. Always worth remembering such a great athlete. And nice to see his history here in Australia noted. A great champion.

  3. Debby says:

    Great post — very well-written! Following in your dad’s footsteps (pace line?) already and you’ll have a popular blog soon too!

    The above link is for a Major Taylor Association in Worcester, MA. You probably knew this, but he spent time there when he started racing, and the local townspeople are fundraising for a statue in his honor. Looks like there’s a bike race there this summer too! Thanks for sharing your report with us. 🙂

  4. Chris says:

    I first heard of Major Taylor last summer, just as I was getting into racing. His legend loomed large for me and I was surprised, and disappointed, to read his biography here. Fortunately, it sounds like he’s getting his just due now. I’m VERY impressed with the “Guest Poster” and the fact that he did this research on his own. It would have been soooo easy to just do one of the easy ones (Woods, Jordan, et al) but to really highlight someone who dominated in his day like Major Taylor did is a Major accomplishment (sorry for the pun!). Well written!

  5. Theresa says:

    My goodness, what a great essay! You should be proud of that boy PJ! Bicycling had a article on the last Little Indy 500, and Team Major Taylor. That’s someone cycling can be proud of!

  6. pelotonjim says:

    Thank you for the nice words.


  7. […] Taylor Update I posted my son’s report on champion cyclist Marshall “Major Taylor here last week.  Well the grade is […]

  8. epic /velo says:

    Thanx for the reminder that cycling isn’t just a verb, it’s a passion.

  9. Jim Castle says:

    Sunday, July 29, 2007,
    at the conclusion of the sixth annual
    an uphill time trial presented by
    Barney´s Bicycle and the Seven Hills Wheelmen, in Worcester, Mass.
    You need not be present to win.

    Cost is $5 per chance, or three for $12, or six for $20.

    Proceeds benefit the Major Taylor Association, Inc.,
    which is putting up a statue of the 1899 world cycling champion in Worcester.

    You can get raffle tickets online with a credit card or Paypal at
    or by mail order:

    Major Taylor Association, Inc.
    PO Box 20131
    Worcester, MA 01602

    You could win:
    — Giant OCR3 road bike from Barney´s Bicycle
    — Custom, limited-edition Major Taylor Association bike jersey
    (thank you to our jersey sponsor, HepCMO, and jersey prize sponsors Allen
    Fletcher, Gilbane Inc., Landry´s Bicycles, Wachusett Greenways, Webster
    Five Cents Savings Bank, and the Witkes family)
    — $100 gift certificate from Bicycle Alley
    — Death Valley cycling jersey from AdventureCORPS
    — Web hosting from Sherwood Hosting
    — “The Six-Day Bicycle Races” DVD
    — Skinsens sport top from Louis Garneau
    — Price Chopper gift cards
    — Wachusett Greenways membership and T-shirt
    — Gift basket from Sweaty Betty´s salon
    — Fine art posters from Gallery Bershad
    — Major Taylor books: the biography by Andrew Ritchie, and a children´s
    book written by Lesa Cline-Ransome and illustrated by James Ransome

  10. Jim Castle says:

    10:00 a.m.
    July 29, 2007
    Sixth annual
    George Street Bike Challenge for Major Taylor
    Main and George streets
    Worcester, Mass.

    See how fast you can pedal up George Street, a two-block quad-buster that was a training ground for 1899 world champion Major Taylor. It’s one rider at a time against the clock in this steep uphill time trial in downtown Worcester presented by Barney’s Bicycle and the Seven Hills Wheelmen. The distance is 500 feet, and the average grade is 18 percent. The contest is open to riders age 12 and up. Helmets are required. Entry fee is $15. Proceeds benefit the Major Taylor Association, Inc. The event is sponsored by Puma and other Friends of Major Taylor.

  11. Lynne Tolman says:

    Dear Friends of Major Taylor,

    What a great day on the hill! The sixth annual GEORGE STREET BIKE CHALLENGE FOR MAJOR TAYLOR on July 29, 2007, was a great success, with a record 126 riders and more spectators than ever. It was awesome to see today’s cyclists following in the footsteps — pedal strokes, actually — of the 1899 world champ.

    You can follow the links from this page
    to see the race results,
    photos (pro shots of each rider making the climb),
    more photos (sent in by spectators & riders),
    raffle winners,
    and front-page news coverage (scroll down to “In the News”).

    — Lynne Tolman

  12. […] a champion cyclist named Major Taylor. I was so moved by the essay that, with his permission, I posted it here. I had not heard of Major Taylor which saddened me to know that such a presence on the […]

  13. […] a champion cyclist named Major Taylor. I was so moved by the essay that, with his permission, I posted it here. I had not heard of Major Taylor which saddened me to know that such a presence on the […]

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