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.
Major Taylor, Champion Cyclist by Lesa Cline-Ransome
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.
One thought on “2 African-American cyclists of note, 1 century apart”
How funny! I am waiting for the camera on loan so the post won’t be up until October but just finished writing my review of Major Taylor. His story is also included in Gill’s Strange Fruit comic anthology, but his autobiography has been a little harder to track down. I hadn’t heard of McGowan, and based on her riding across Wisconsin photo, I probably should have! Great article.