Posted by: Brad Beaman | October 7, 2011

Major Taylor

Looking for some inspiration? Then look to Major Taylor

I was introduced to Major Taylor when my friend gave me what is now the first edition of   Major Taylor   by Andrew Ritchie. In this book you learn of Taylor’s strong Christian faith and his world record accomplishments.

“Taylor’s life story is one of the most fascinating stories ever told about any athlete–white or black.”

I remember the opening scene from Tracts of Glory   where Major Taylor beats a train on his bicycle. He was the fastest human in the world, no train, no horse rider could go faster than Taylor on his bicycle.  

biography video

Marshal Taylor lived in the USA in the late 1800’s and he was born to parents that were slaves. Marshal Taylor experienced freedom and he began to know a taste of freedom that his parents never knew. He had the privilege of being around some people who had never been slaves and were wealthy. One of them gave this boy Taylor access to a bicycle. In his day it was unheard of for a black man whose parents were slaves to have a bicycle. He had this opportunity and he learned to ride this bicycle. Eventually he found himself entered in a bicycle race. At the starting line those who were racing against him told him because he was a black man racing with the whites that they would kill him. They said as soon as they rode out of sight they would get to him, beat him, and leave him dead.

You can imagine what was going through his mind. When the starting gun sounded he was off like lightning, never looking back. He went on to win that race. It was the beginning of one of the most dramatic athletic careers ever know. This man Marshal Major Taylor became the star of the athletic world at the turn of the century. He was known as the fastest man in the world and literally nothing could travel as fast as him. There was no train that could go as fast as Taylor could ride. The automobile had not come along yet. Nothing could travel as fast as Major Taylor on his bike.

He had been poor and suddenly his name; Major Taylor became a household word in Europe and in America. He dined with dignitaries and he was the equivalent of what today would be a multi-millionaire. Here is a man who went from poorest poor to the highest height of riches and fame. Today the Olympic caliber Bicycle Track in Indianapolis bears his name. Another interesting story is how the Major Taylor Veledrome in Indianapolis would be named for Major Taylor.

“Life is too short for any man to hold bitterness in his heart.”—Marshall Taylor



  1. Brad’s account is not 100 percent accurate (for one, Major Taylor’s parents were not slaves; his grandparents might have been). But it’s great to see people “discovering” a trailblazer who was nearly forgotten in the late 20th century.
    More info from the nonprofit org that commissioned the statue:
    including recent videos & articles:
    and a curriculum guide, newly expanded with lesson plans for Grades 9-12:

    — Lynne Tolman
    president, Major Taylor Association

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