Marshall “Major” Taylor — with unparalleled style and skill — dominated the professional bicycle racing scene at the turn of the 20th century. In 1899, he won the 1 mile track cycling world championship, becoming the first African-American man to do so, and only the second black man to win a major world championship behind the Canadian boxer George Dixon.
Born in rural Indiana in the late 1870s, Taylor would undoubtedly face severe racial discrimination in his career. His autobiography notes having not been allowed to race against white cyclists in southern states, having ice thrown at him during races, having nails thrown in front of his wheels on the track, being boxed in and occasionally tackled by competitors.
Despite many hardships, Taylor persevered. By the early 1900's he had become one of the most decorated athletes in cycling history, holding seven world records - several of which stood for over twenty years.
However unknown he may be today, his groundbreaking cultural significance and dominant performance on the track have made Marshall Taylor one of the most important American athletes in history.
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