Anyone can remember the first time that they rode a bicycle independently, and with that memory, the freedom they felt running through their hair.
Black Americans felt the liberating feeling on a bike like no other in the late 1890s – the golden age of bicycles.
But nobody rode a bicycle like Marshall Taylor. Over 120 years later, Taylor is still recognized as the earliest and most extraordinary pioneering black athlete in American sports history.
Taylor was so fast on a bicycle that his nicknames included “The Ebony Wonder,” “Whirlwind,” and “Black Cyclone.” And a time when black Americans felt liberated riding them.
Bicycle advancements made racing them the thing to do.
Taylor rode like the wind, making him the target of bigoted competition. Flimsy excuses were used to ban him from races. But he never let racism or death threats stop him. His first professional race was at Madison Square Garden, where his motivation outpaced all others to the point that he lapped the entire field.
At the turn of the Twentieth Century, cycling was the most popular sport in the world. And with that, Taylor proceeded to become a world champion and the first black sports superstar in American history.
Several years later, today’s pinnacle of bicycle racing – the Tour de France – began in 1904.
Taylor’s story and others are preserved at The Bicycle Museum of America in New Bremen, Ohio.