Mural Artist :Shawn Michael Warren
‘’In a word I was a pioneer and therefore
had to blaze my own trail.’’
Major Taylor The Fastest Bicycle Rider in the World (1928)
More than a hundred years ago, when bicycle races drew crowds that filled Madison Square Garden, the biggest draw of all was Major Taylor.
As a superstar athlete in the most popular sport of his era, 1899 world bicycling champion Major Taylor saw his racing victories well chronicled in mainstream newspapers as well as cycling publications. Throughout his career, Major Taylor had embodied the role carved out for him by promoters, the press, and the fans, who fed off each other’s desires for drama and dollars. ‘’The Black Cyclone’’ was allowed on the starting line because of his exceptional talent, but he was constantly reminded, on and off the bike—as a Black American--of his place in the racial order.
He could compete against white riders as long as he didn’t act “uppity’’. White race promoters and competitors made it clear that his elite position was not to be used as a platform to overtly
demand that equality be extended to other members of his race. Taylor had to contend with a balancing act familiar to Black athletes in America before and since. The backlash against football player Colin Kaepernick taking a knee during the national anthem, as well as current controversies related to NBA and WNBA player support of Black Lives Matter, attest to ongoing disputes about Black athletes who take a stand against racial injustice.
In a post-Civil War era governed by Jim Crow laws in the South and overt racism nationwide,Major Taylor managed to be the first Black champion of the world in cycling and one of the first black world champions in any sport... His fame grew not only in America but in Europe and Australia as newspapers around the world reported his triumphs. The Boston Globe labeled him ‘’The World Beater’’ in a headline in August 1899.
We plan to produce a feature length documentary film for national and international broadcast on the life and times of Major Taylor. The film will be a compelling combination of interviews with acclaimed scholars and professional athletes, re-enactments, rare archival material and narration.
Major Taylor biography at a glance
By Lynne Tolman (Telegram & Gazette) Worcester, Ma
Nov. 26, 1878-- Marshall W. Taylor is born in rural Indiana to a black couple who moved north from Kentucky around the time of the Civil War.
1886-1891-- Taylor is raised and educated in the home of a wealthy white Indianapolis family that employs his father as coachman. The family gives him a bicycle.
1892-- Taylor is hired to perform cycling stunts outside an Indianapolis bike shop. His costume is a soldier's uniform, which earns him the nickname "Major." He wins his first bike race that year.
Fall 1895-- Taylor moves to Worcester, Mass., with his employer and racing manager Louis "Birdie" Munger, who plans to open a bike factory there.
August 1896-- Taylor unofficially breaks a world track record in Indianapolis. But his feat offends white sensibilities and he is banned from Indy's Capital City track.
December 1896-- Taylor finishes eighth in his first professional race, a six-day endurance event at Madison Square Garden in New York.
1898 -- Taylor holds seven world records, including the 1-mile paced standing start (1:41.4).
Aug. 10, 1899-- Taylor wins the world 1-mile championship in Montreal, defeating Boston rival Tom Butler. Taylor is the second black world champion athlete, after bantamweight boxer George Dixon's title fights in 1890-91.
Nov. 15, 1899-- Taylor knocks the 1-mile record down to 1:19.
September 1900 -- Thwarted in previous seasons by racism, Taylor finally gets to complete the national championship series and becomes American sprint champion.
October 1900-January 1901-- Taylor performs in a vaudeville act with Charles "Mile-a-Minute" Murphy, racing on rollers on theater stages across Massachusetts.
March -June 1901-- Taylor competes in Europe, which he had long resisted because his Baptist beliefs precluded racing on Sundays. He beats every European champion.
March 21, 1902-- Taylor marries Daisy V. Morris in Ansonia, Conn.
1902-1904--Taylor races all over Europe, Australia, New Zealand and the United States, with brief rests in Worcester.
1907-- Taylor makes a brief comeback after a two-year hiatus.
1910-- Taylor retires from racing at age 32. Over the next two decades, unsuccessful business ventures and illness sap his fortune.
1930-- Impoverished and estranged from his wife, Taylor drives to Chicago, stays at the YMCA and tries to sell copies of his self-published 1928 autobiography, "The Fastest Bicycle Rider in the World."
June 21, 1932-- Taylor dies at age 53 in the charity ward of Cook County Hospital, Chicago, and is buried in an unmarked grave.
May 23, 1948-- A group of former pro bike racers, with money donated by Schwinn Bicycle Co. owner Frank Schwinn, has Taylor's remains exhumed and reburied in a more prominent part of Mount Glenwood Cemetery in Illinois.
Mural Artist :Shawn Michael Warren
MASSACHUSSETTS CULTURAL COUNCIL
Mural Artist : Max Sansing
''The primary object of this narrative, however, is not for any personal glory, or self praise but rather to perpetuate my achievements on the bicycle tracks of the world , for the benefit of all youths aspiring to an athletic career, and especially to boys of my own group as the strive for fame and glory in the athletic world.''
Major Taylor (The fastest Bicycle Rider in the World-1928.)
Although exceptional in many ways, the life of Major Taylor can be a lens through which to view the larger arc of African American and American history, from Reconstruction to the Great Depression. His story reflects the aspirations, tenacity, and remarkable achievements of the post-Civil War generation, despite growing racial violence and the denial of basic rights in both the South and North.
At the same time, Taylor’s story is the tale of dreams deferred, of a generation of Black Americans who saw the promises of Reconstruction dashed on the rocks of virulent white supremacy. Through this film we hope to educate ,inspire and engage our audience.