I have always been interested in bicycling,
including bicycle touring, racing and ultra long distance riding. But even though I knew a
lot about the sport, it wasn't until I happened to pick up a book about turn of the
century bicycle riding that I learned about the achievements of bicycle hero Major Taylor.
Major Taylor lived in the United States at a time when there weren't
many opportunities for black men to advance. Fortunately, he had very caring parents who
brought him up with strong religious, ethical and moral beliefs.
When Major Taylor was a young boy, an influential white family
welcomed him into their family and treated him as an equal. These years of education and
support would help him succeed throughout his lifetime.
Major Taylor refused to find a meager job and settle down. Instead,
he was determined to race against the best athletes in the world and win. To do this, the
talented athlete had to overcome a great deal of racism. He wasn't allowed to enter many
races because of his color. Rather than become discouraged, Major Taylor would enter
another race in which he was allowed to compete.
After winning many small races, this extraordinary bicycle rider
began to attract the public's attention. His fans wanted to see him race in big races. But
many racers were prejudiced, and did not think that they should have to race against a
black man - someone they were "superior" to. Major Taylor refused to give up.
Determined to become the best bicycle racer in the world, he continued training.
After many years of hard work, Major Taylor achieved his goal. He was
beating the best racers around the world. He became the American Bicycling Champion and
World Bicycling Champion, and set many speed records. In fact, Major Taylor was so
successful he was earning more money in one year than most people could earn in their
Sadly, despite his success, Major Taylor was still turned down at
hotels and restaurants because of his color. He also faced harassment from many racist
people who resented the fact that a black man was rich and famous.
But Major Taylor refused to let these people keep him from pursuing
his dreams, and he never lost sight of what was most important to him - his beliefs,
morals and ethics. For instance, even though it meant losing money, Major Taylor never
raced on Sundays for religious reasons.He always sent money back to his family to help
them, and even moved his sister into his own home so he could care for her when she was
Major Taylor was a real American hero who refused to give up no
matter what barriers stood in his way. If you learn one thing from studying Major Taylor's
life and achievements, I hope it's to never give up on your dreams and ambitions!
The Major Taylor Society