First world champion cyclist Marshall “Major” Taylor (Photo credit: Road.cc)
In recognition of former world champion cyclist Marshall “Major” Taylor, the Bronzeville Trail Task Force (BTTF) held a news conference on Tuesday, January 24, launching a national online campaign seeking Congressional recognition for the Taylor Congressional Gold Medal Act.
Congressman Danny K. Davis (7th District) has indicated he will be one of the bill’s sponsors.
The event took place at the Wabash Avenue YMCA, 3763 S. Wabash Ave., recognized as a Chicago Landmark. The building is listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.
Taylor, an early 20th century African American professional cyclist, was known as “the world’s fastest man.”
According to BTTF, Taylor was born in Indianapolis in 1878. As a youngster, he earned the nickname “Major” when he performed cycling stunts outside a local bike shop while wearing a military-style jacket. Taylor won his first bike race in 1890. He went on to establish seven world records by the end of 1898.
On August 10, 1899, Taylor won the world one-mile championship in Montreal, Canada, becoming the second Black man to win a world championship in any sport. He became the U.S. sprint champion in 1900. He competed in Europe, beating every champion, and raced in Australia and New Zealand.
He was the first African American international sports hero and the first Black athlete to compete regularly in open, integrated competitions. He was also the first African American to win a cycling world championshipTaylor was inducted into the U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame in 1989.
Taylor’s great-granddaughter Karen Donovan attended the news conference and was the first person to join the campaign in real time online.
City, county, state and federal elected officials also attended the news conference, along with organization leaders, members of the faith-based community, neighborhood groups, and community leaders.
BTTF seeks to develop the abandoned Kenwood “L” line embankment located in the Bronzeville community into a walking, running and biking trail.
Chicago keeps Taylor’s memory alive via the “Major” Taylor Trail, created in 2007 and covering 7.5 miles, including a 400-foot mural on the bridge over the Little Calumet River, painted by Chicago artist Bernard Williams in 2017.
The Major Taylor Monument in Worcester, Massachusetts, commissioned by the Major Taylor Association, was installed in 2008.
The BTTF is planning a Bronzeville monument that will be from the same mold, created by sculptor Antonio Tobias Mendez.