Marshall “Major” Taylor was an elite cyclist in the 1890s and early 1900s. He was the first African-American to win a world championship in any sport.
Ayesha McGowan is a contemporary cyclist on a mission to become the first female African-American pro cyclist. Ever.
Chances are you haven’t heard of either of them.
I don’t recall how I first encountered McGowan — an Internet rabbit hole of some kind, no doubt — but I recently had the opportunity to interview and write about her for Excelle Sports. Check out the profile and then follow her blog or Instagram for a chance to see history as it happens.
While researching that Excelle piece I came across Taylor’s life story, and I did what I always do after “why haven’t I heard of this person before?” moments: checked the local library for children’s books about him. I found the following picture book. Perhaps one day, if McGowan achieves her goal, there will be a biography of her on the shelves, too.
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
At the turn of the 20th century, “Major” Marshall Taylor was the fastest cyclist in the world. In this picture book biography, Lesa Cline-Ransom and James E. Ransome recreate Taylor’s journey from a bicycle shop stunt boy to a world champion who battled racism by winning races.
Major Taylor’s name should be on any list of American sports heroes and notable African-Americans in history. Today a network of cycling clubs across the U.S. bear his name but few outside those groups know his story. This book is a good starting point for bringing Taylor’s legacy to the fore, though the word count could definitely be pared down and the language punched up.