It’s well past time to publicly honor Major Taylor in his hometown, Indianapolis.
This website is home to an informal group of Central Indiana residents from many backgrounds, but one purpose: to collaborate with community residents and leaders to find highly visible ways to pay tribute to Marshall "Major" Taylor (1878-1932). Taylor was a pioneering cyclist and one of the first Black sports heroes in America. He stands alongside legends including Jack Johnson, Jesse Owens, Joe Louis, and Jackie Robinson.
We call ourselves the Major Taylor Coalition, and we would love to involve anyone who rides a bike for recreation or is an avid cyclist, who enjoys history, or who wants to learn more about Taylor – or all three! Use the contact form below to join our email list or to become an active part of the coalition.
Building Major Taylor's Legacy in Indianapolis
Currently, Taylor is recognized in five places in Indianapolis:
• The Indianapolis Velodrome at the Indy Cycloplex near Riverside Park is named for Major Taylor
• Taylor is represented in a mural at Indianapolis International Airport along with other pioneers of transportation in Indiana
• Taylor is included in a sculpture on the Indianapolis Cultural Trail along with several other “icons” of Indianapolis’ Black history
• There is a state historical marker describing Taylor along the Monon Trail
• There is a Historic Sign describing Taylor on the Fall Creek Trail very near the Monon
None of these, however, honor Taylor on his own in the way he should be recognized.
“I pray they will carry on in spite of that dreadful monster prejudice, and with patience, courage, fortitude and perseverance achieve success for themselves.”
-- Marshall “Major” Taylor
"Modesty should be typical of the success of a champion.... I would advise all youths aspiring to athletic fame or a professional career to practice clean living, fair play and good sportsmanship."
-- Marshall “Major” Taylor
The Arts Council of Indianapolis and Major Taylor Coalition announced that artist Shawn Michael Warren will create the mural of international cycling champion and racial justice advocate Major Taylor, the first project of the City of Indianapolis' Bicentennial Legends mural series. Warren, who is based in Chicago, will begin painting the five-story mural later this spring on the Barnes & Thornburg building. Indy-based painter Boxx the Artist will assist Warren, as part of a program to help artists learn to create large-scale civic murals. Meet the artist and find out more at indyarts.org/legends/Taylor.
Arts Council of Indianapolis on new mural...
Artist Shawn Michael Warren (above) has been selected to create the mural of Marshall “Major” Taylor (1878-1932), the international cycling champion and racial justice advocate who will be honored with the first mural in the City of Indianapolis’ “Bicentennial Legends” series, the Arts Council of Indianapolis announced today.
Warren, based in Chicago, is one of 54 artists from 21 states who applied for the commission, and one of three finalists who submitted concepts. His portrait montage captures Taylor in three stages of his career—as a youth, as an adult at his competitive peak, and upon his return to racing after a two-year hiatus.
“It’s important to create some form of a narrative that not only depicts Major Taylor as a world-champion cyclist, but as a stoic, unwavering individual who faced the ugliest forms of racism,” Warren said. “I wanted those who view the mural to understand the difficult task Major Taylor took on to represent and win in a sport for a country that viewed him as an inferior person. The three portraits display Taylor as hopeful, courageous, and determined. His humanity is just as significant as his accomplishments as an athlete.”
Warren will begin painting the five-story mural later this spring on the east-facing exterior of the Barnes & Thornburg LLP building, 11 S. Meridian St. Indy-based painter Boxx the Artist will assist Warren, as part of a program to help artists learn to create large-scale civic murals. In partnership with Indiana Humanities, the Arts Council will also commission an Indiana poet to reflect on Taylor’s legacy. An outdoor dedication ceremony for the new mural and poem is planned for late summer.
The CIBA Foundation is a proud supporter of the Major Taylor mural. The CIBA Foundation is a charitable organization formed and supported by the Central Indiana Bicycling Association.
Taylor photographs courtesy of the Indiana State Museum
About Marshall "Major" Taylor
Indianapolis native Marshall “Major” Taylor is an inspiration and model for today, not only for his athletic achievements in the face of unrelenting racism, but also because of his integrity, generosity of spirit, concern for others, and invaluable contribution to America’s non-violent struggle for equality.
Nov. 26, 1878—Marshall W. Taylor is born in Indianapolis.
1892—Taylor is nicknamed “Major” because of a soldier’s uniform he wears while performing cycling tricks outside an Indianapolis bike shop.
June 30, 1895—16-year-old Major Taylor wins a 75-mile bicycle race from Massachusetts Avenue in Indianapolis to the town of Matthews in Grant County.
1895—Taylor moves to Worcester, Mass., with his mentor Birdie Munger, where he spends most of the rest of his adult life. He moves partly because of the racial discrimination he is facing in his hometown.
1896—The U.S. Supreme Court, in Plessy v. Ferguson, upholds racial segregation across the nation.
1896—Taylor sets the one-mile record at Indianapolis’ Capital City Track. Because of enforced segregation, he had to ride the track alone with an official timekeeper instead of participating in a sanctioned race.
1898—Taylor holds seven simultaneous world records.
Aug. 10, 1899—Taylor wins the world 1-mile sprint championship in Montreal, becoming the first Black cyclist to win a world championship and only the second Black athlete to win a world championship in any sport. At the end of 1898 he held seven world records, one of which would not be broken until 1927, and he would continue to set world records through 1908.
1910—Taylor retires from competitive cycling at age 32, having been internationally acclaimed as a cycling hero and particularly revered in Europe. He cites exhaustion and mental stress from racial prejudice as reasons for his retirement. His final race will be in 1917, when he wins a competition among other retired cyclists.
1928—Taylor self-publishes his autobiography, The Fastest Bicycle Rider in the World.
1930—Taylor moves to Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood after depleting the remains of his cycling fortune, selling his Worcester home to pay off his debts.
June 21, 1932—Taylor suffers a heart attack and dies in Chicago’s Cook County Hospital charity ward. He is buried in a pauper’s grave.
1948—Cycling enthusiasts have Taylor’s remains moved to a more prominent part of Mount Glenwood Cemetery in Illinois and reinterred in a marked grave.
Leaders of the Major Taylor Coalition include:
Anthony Bridgeman, cyclist and regional manager, vice president, community development banking at PNC Bank in Indianapolis
Doug Day, community activist and Champion of Destination Fall Creek
Kisha Tandy, Curator of Social History at Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites
Daniel Lee, cyclist and Zipp content manager at SRAM Corp’s Indianapolis facility
Julia Muney Moore, director of public art at the Arts Council of Indianapolis
Please join our mailing list. We will be in touch soon with how you can help be part of the effort to honor Major Taylor in his hometown.
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