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Celebrating Black History: Marshall ‘Major’ Taylor

Celebrating Black History: Marshall “Major” Taylor

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — More than 90 years after his death, Marshall “Major” Taylor is still known by many as one of the greatest cyclists of all time.

Marshall Walter “Major” Taylor was born in 1878 in Indianapolis. As a boy, he delivered newspapers. Into his teen years, Taylor worked in a bike shop downtown. Shortly after, he embarked on his first road race at 13. By the age of 17, Taylor would break the world mile record by over eight seconds.

Due to racial segregation at the time, Taylor could only be part of “Black Only” racing clubs. He was even refused entry to races in the South and conspired against by his white counterparts. Despite racial tensions, Taylor became the first African American cycling champion.

By 1901, Taylor was racing in France, where he became top of his field, winning 18 of his 24 races, including a world championship sprint title. Taylor retired from racing in 1932.

Today, many places honor his legacy outside the Major Taylor Velodrome, including murals and historical markers that you can find on Meridian Street and the Monon Trail.