Happy 133rd Birthday, Major Taylor!

We’ll be cycling along and often our white jerseys, adorned with red, green and black, draw attention from other cyclists, walkers, and drivers.

“Who, “ they ask, is  Major Taylor?

Born Marshall Taylor November 26, 1878, Taylor was the first African –American athlete to become a world champion for his 1899 one-mile track win.  Taylor’s father worked as a coachman for a wealthy family in  Indiana and the young Taylor lived with this family between the ages of 8-12, becoming educated and receiving his first bicycle. He taught himself tricks, which landed him a job at a local bike shop.  He performed cycling stunts outside the store, wearing  a cast-off soldier’s uniform, which earned Taylor  the nickname, “Major.”

photo: (considerbiking.org)

At age 13,  Taylor won his first race, an amateur event in Indianapolis.  Two years later, in 1893, Taylor beat the 1 mile (1.6 km) amateur track record. Subsequently barred from the Indiana track because of his race, he moved to Worcester, Massachusetts in 1896 and began racing professionally;  showing his cycling prowess around the world.

Despite being celebrated abroad, Taylor faced racism in the US.  Southern states refused to allow him to compete against whites.  The League of American Wheelmen excluded blacks from membership and other racers would conspire against him, throwing ice water at him during races, scattering nails in front of his tires, or boxing him in on the track, preventing him from sprinting ahead.

In 1979,  the first African-American cycling club  named in honor of Major Taylor was organized in Columbus, Ohio.  Now Major Taylor cycling clubs can be found in many major US cities; Newark, NJ among them.

And thanks to this club, I’ve become a cyclist. When teaching in Newark a few years ago, a colleague told me about another teacher in the building. “Go see Mr. McCarther, he rides a bike.”

That  brief meeting led to the club, of which I’m  a proud MTCCNJ jersey-wearing member.  

Happy Birthday, Mayor Taylor.

For more about my evolution as a cyclist see:  https://cyclingrandma.wordpress.com/2011/08/16/from-training-…ling-evolution

For links to Major Taylor and some great books: http://www.majortaylorassociation.org/who.shtml

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About cyclingrandma

I was a journalist (Danbury News-Times, Ct), before becoming a teacher, and continue to write for professional journals. I have written several study guides for Penguin Books and write for Education Update, a newspaper based in New York City. (www.educationupdate.com). I’ve interviewed many authors, college presidents, and scientists. I wrote “The Kentucky Derby’s Forgotten Jockeys” for Smithsonian Magazine's website, www.smithsonian.com. (April, 2009). Two essays have been published in book anthologies; one for Wisdom of Our Mothers, (Familia Books) and the other in “College Search and Parent Rescue: Essay for Parents by Parents of College-Going Students.” (St. Martin’s Press). I was a middle school Language Arts teacher for more than 10 years and have just completed a five year grant position under No Child Left Behind in Newark, NJ public schools. I have three children, two daughters-in law, and six grandchildren. I'm an avid cyclist, knitter, cook, and reader. I love theater, museums, and yoga.
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11 Responses to Happy 133rd Birthday, Major Taylor!

  1. What a great piece of black history. So many inspiring stories out there. Thanks. Hope you got out and enjoyed the great weather.

    Like

  2. Madeline Taylor says:

    I echo Judy – great piece of Black History – might figure out a way to incorporate into both Black History month study and our Girls On The Run club at school! Love the pictures of the two of you! I wish he could see how bikes and gear have changed over time!
    Cool post!

    Like

  3. jakesprinter says:

    Nice post cycling mama 🙂

    Like

  4. Mily says:

    Great piece of Sports History and sportsmanship.

    Like

  5. nancy Polster says:

    Great story. Thanks. Hope you had a great Thanksgiving.

    Like

  6. Hey “cycling grandma”
    I read your story on Major Taylor while at work. It was so good it took control of my imagination. I almost lost track of my commercial position. Good stuff Lisa and very educational because we do need to know who he is when asked. RJ

    Like

  7. Leah says:

    What a great piece. Thanks for sharing this important piece of sports history. I’m going to share this with my husband, who used to be an avid cyclist.

    Like

  8. Pingback: Birthday! Biking & Hiking! | cyclingrandma

  9. Pingback: Graduates: Show Courage | cyclingrandma

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