A Bike Shorts' shout-out to Marshall Walter "Major" Taylor, born today, Nov. 26, in 1878—and considered the first U.S. African-American athlete to win a world championship, predating heavyweight boxer Jack Johnson by a decade.
Nicknamed "the Worcester Whirlwind," Taylor raced all over North America and Europe at the turn of the century when cycling was widely recognized as the most popular sport in Europe and the U.S.
In 1899, Taylor won the world 1-mile track championship in Montreal. A year later, in 1900, after previously being denied the opportunity to compete in the U.S. national series because of racism, he became an American sprint champion.
Today, Taylor serves as an inspiration—and namesake—for numerous cycling clubs around the country, including Pittsburgh, where I had a chance to join in for the organization's weekly Wednesday night ride this summer.
In past years, the Baltimore Metro Wheelers Cycling Club, which has ridden out of Randallstown for 30 years, has organized Major Taylor rides in celebration of the fabled cyclist's birthday.
Also, Baltimore artist Mark Cottman, a bicycling enthusiast who operates a studio and gallery in Federal Hill—and sometimes uses bicycling themes in his work—painted Taylor's portait as seen below: