An unsung Black athlete is finally getting the recognition that he deserves. Marshall ‘Major’ Taylor—a man who dominated cycling during the late 1800s—is being highlighted in a new book, Chicago PBS reported.
The book, titled The World’s Fastest Man: The Extraordinary Life of Cyclist Major Taylor, America’s First Black Sports Hero, was penned by political reporter Michael Kranish. It delves into the racism that Taylor faced while competing during that era. Due to Jim Crow laws, he was banned from participating in several competitions and endured racially charged physical attacks during races.
Taylor—who at one point was the world’s fastest cyclist—didn’t let the racial discrimination that he experienced deter him from cycling. In fact, he used all of the negative experiences as fuel to push forward and understood that what he was doing was something bigger than himself; he was opening up doors for generations of Black athletes to follow in his footsteps.
Many star athletes would follow suit and lend their voices to social and political issues including Jackie Robinson, Muhammad Ali, Colin Kaepernick, LeBron James and Serena Williams. “He really was a civil rights icon for his day,” Kranish said in a statement. “He wrote extensively about racing not just for his glory. He wanted to show that if he could win a fair match against whites, that any Black could compete and triumph whatever field they tried, if they were given a fair shot.”
Taylor is also the inspiration behind a new art exhibit slated to be unveiled next month. Artist Kadir Nelson—known for doing the cover art for rapper Drake’s Nothing Was the Same album—will create a bronze sculpture of Taylor that will be on display at 3 World Trade Center.