Cyclist Marshall “Major” Taylor had to leave Indiana to compete


Celebrating Black History

Cyclist Marshall "Major" Taylor had to leave Indiana to compete

By Diana Penner


Marshall "Major" Taylor (left, on bike) at his first European bike race, in Berlin in 1901. – The Star 1901 file photo

Marshall "Major" Taylor learned to ride a bike on the streets of Indianapolis, but had to leave his hometown to gain worldwide acclaim as a bicycle speedster.

Born in 1878 on the outskirts of Indianapolis, Taylor remains one of Indianapolis’ most significant figures in social and sports history.

A hundred years ago, cyclists were the world’s highest-paid professional athletes, and from Madison Square Garden to Paris, throngs of people stood in line to watch races on wooden tracks called velodromes.

Taylor was the sport’s biggest star, but the Indianapolis racing governing body banned him because he was black.

He moved to Massachusetts, where he was more widely accepted.

He won the world one-mile championship in 1899 and, in 1901, went on an international tour and won 42 of 57 races in Europe.

Taylor had a penchant for dressing in a military-type uniform, and became known as "Major" as he achieved his global fame.

In 1932, at the age of 53, Taylor died poor in Chicago, after some bad investments and the stock market crash.

In Indianapolis, the Major Taylor Velodrome on Cold Spring Road on the Westside was dedicated in 1982.

Cyclist Marshall "Major" Taylor had to leave Indiana to compete | | The Indianapolis Star

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