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Major Taylor

Hieu Nguyen, Staff Writer

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Marshall Walter “Major” Taylor was an American cyclist born in 1878 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Taylor was the son of Gilbert Taylor, a Civil War veteran, and Saphronia Kelter, who had migrated from Louisville, Kentucky, with their large family to a farm in rural Indiana.  He was one of eight children: five girls and three boys.

Taylor won his first significant race in 1895 at the age of sixteen.  He was banned from bicycle racing in Indiana once he started winning and made a reputation as “The Black Cyclone.” Taylor was the first African-American cyclist to achieve the level of world champion. Taylor turned professional cyclist at the age 18. He had many supporters including President Theodore Roosevelt.

Taylor was greatly celebrated abroad, particularly in France, but his career was still held back by racism, particularly in the Southern states where he was not permitted to compete against Caucasians.  For example, he reports he was actually being tackled on the race track by another rider and choke him just because of his skin color.

Major Taylor retired as one of the richest athletes in history.  He encouraged the sportsmanship of athletes to be fair. He overcame the institutional racial barriers and motivated not just athletes but people worldwide.

“It is my thought that clean living and a strict observance of the golden rule of true sportsmanship are foundation stones without which a championship structure cannot be built.”—Marshall “Major” Taylor

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Major Taylor