“There are positively no mental, physical or moral attainments too lofty for the [African American] to accomplish if granted a fair and equal opportunity.”
The story of Marshall “Major” Taylor - “the fastest man in America” - continues to be as relevant today as it was during his era. To this day, Taylor remains one of the greatest cyclists of all time, setting numerous world records and winning a World Championship and multiple national championships -- all while battling racism throughout his career from the late 1800s to early 1900s.
He achieved greatness while continually battling overt racism and prejudice throughout his career. He was banned from joining many cycling clubs. Some track owners banned him from competing at their venues, and Taylor was sometimes jeered and heckled by white spectators. Worse yet, he often complained of being elbowed and physically hit by competitors in an effort to block or slow him down, and at other times he was physically attacked, had nails thrown in front of his tires, and received death threats.
Taylor's story resonates to this day because it illustrates the overwhelming obstacles he had to overcome - not just to succeed but simply to race at all - as a black athlete. Almost a century after his death sports at large (and cycling, in particular) continue to be forever changed by Taylor’s story, the awareness he raised for the systemic injustice, and the example he set for the future of black athletics.
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