Thursday, February 16, 2012

In honor of Black History Month

Marshall "Major" Taylor

Before Jesse Owens, before Jackie Robinson, there was Marshall "Major" Taylor.

Who, you might ask?

Only perhaps the first athlete to challenge racial boundaries and participate in the mainstream of an American sport. The sport was track cycling, which was big at the turn if the twentieth century.

Major Taylor's story is a compelling one, as he fought through prejudice, injustice, and actual physical assault to compete, and win on a rather regular basis, in the sport of track cycling. According to his autobiography, he apparently had some very conflicted feelings about writes, harboring disdain (understandably) for those competitors who games up on him to try to keep him from winning only because he was black while at the same time crediting other whites for making his career possible. Sadly he passed away, largely forgotten at the young age of 53 during the Great Depression.

I recommend everyone look through his bio and a little about him on Wikipedia. There's also a Major Taylor Association with lots of resources and info, including information about the statue of him in his home base for racing, Worcester, MA.

As we take time this month to remember specifically the contributions of African Americans to our society, it's worth remembering Major Taylor.

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