Thousands of fans packed indoor sports arenas called velodromes to watch his high-speed races. Taylor won thousands of dollars as a bicycle racer and became the most famous African-American in the United States. He broke the international color barrier a full decade before boxer Jack Johnson.Marshall "Major" Taylor was an American cyclist who won the world 1 mile track cycling championship in 1899 after setting numerous world records and overcoming racial discrimination.
Taylor was the 1st African-American athlete to achieve the level of world champion and only the 2nd Black man to win a world championship after Canadian boxer George Dixon. Taylor turned professional in 1896 at the age of 18 and soon emerged as the "most formidable racer in America." One of his biggest supporters was President Theodore Roosevelt who kept track of Taylor throughout his 17-year racing career. RACISM IN THE FIELD: Although he was greatly celebrated abroad, particularly in France, Taylor's career was still held back by racism, particularly in the Southern states where he was not permitted to compete against Caucasians. The League of American Wheelmen for a time excluded Black people from membership.
Other prominent bicycle racers of the era, such as Tom Cooper and Eddie Bald, often cooperated to ensure Taylor's defeat. During his career he had ice water thrown at him during races, and nails scattered in front of his wheels, and was often boxed in by other riders, preventing the sprints to the front of the pack at which he was so successful. DEATH: Taylor was still breaking records in 1908 but age was starting to "creep up on him." He finally quit the track in 1910 at the age of 32. While Taylor was reported to have earned between $25,000 and $30,000 a year when he returned to Worcester at the end of his career, by the time of his death he had lost everything to bad investments (including self-publishing his autobiography), persistent illness, and the stock market crash.
The Major Taylor Velodrome in Indianapolis was opened in July 1982 for the U.S. Olympic Festival.
Taylor was posthumously inducted into the United States Bicycling Hall of Fame in 1989.
In April 2002, Taylor was one of the nine track cyclists inducted into the UCI Hall of Fame, created to commemorate 100 years of the Paris–Roubaix one-day road race and the inauguration of the World Cycling Centre.