No longer forgotten, Delaware cyclists teach children lessons of the black cycling superstar | State and region

In the years before Jack Johnson became the first black boxer to win a world heavyweight title, and in the decades before Jackie Robinson overcame the color barrier of the Major League Baseball, Major Taylor became the first black cyclist to become a black cyclist. world of cycling.

In 1899, Taylor won the one-mile sprint at the World Athletics Championships. He was also the national sprint champion in 1899 and 1900. He later defeated many of the world’s best racers in races in the US, Europe and Australia. Throughout his career, he has faced racial prejudices and threats of violence. After one race in Massachusetts, he was nearly strangled by a competitor he defeated.

Now his story of triumph over adversity is used to inspire and teach Wilmington children perseverance.

Taylor kept going, “no matter how many times he was knocked off a motorcycle, intentionally attacked or pushed out of a race, or tactically unprofitable in a race to try to keep him from winning,” said Artis Hall, a member of the group. Philadelphia Major Taylor Cycling Club.

In the weeks leading up to the Wilmington Grand Prix this weekend, a group of about 30 children in high school and high school read about Taylor’s life and took part in virtual discussions as part of the UrbanPromise Wilmington program.

The children in the group read different biographies of Taylor depending on their abilities, but they also engage in virtual discussions with avid cyclists from across the region about Taylor’s life and how his accomplishments can be applied in their lives today. One of the books is “The Fastest Man in the World: The Unusual Life of Cyclist Major Taylor, America’s First Black Sports Hero,” by Michael Cranish, a Washington Post investigative journalist.

The program is led by Lawrence Manley of UrbanPromise Wilmington, a nonprofit Christian youth organization. Manley said cycling teachers play a big role in getting home lessons that kids can learn from Taylor’s story.

“In order for different people from the community to come and reinforce these messages and also be an example, I think it’s a really big thing,” Manley said. “It sends a strong message, even more powerful than if we just read a book in class.”

Taylor’s triumph was largely ignored. Perhaps this is due to less interest in professional cycling compared to other sports, especially for the black athlete who participated in the Jim Crow era. His story even came as a surprise to fans of a sport like Hall.

“Major Taylor was not one of those people I was taught or associated with in my youth, and I didn’t find them, probably about 10 or 11 years ago,” Hall said.

Taylor’s lack of recognition is also one of the topics the groups discussed at their online meeting on Monday.

“We talked in our room about why I had never heard of this guy? Why is that? What doors did he open? Who followed him or why didn’t more people follow him? ” said Lynn Tolman, who runs the nonprofit Major Taylor Association in Worcester, Massachusetts. “The kids brought up a lot themselves, you know, they really moved on to the chase. So I like it. ”

“He worked so hard to get where he wanted to be,” said Ethan Raines, an 11th-grader from Wilmington. “If everything was rushing to him because of the period of time he was in and everything he would struggle with because of his race, he still decided to be the best.”

While Taylor’s life is in the spotlight, the group also talks about their enjoyment of cycling, seeking to develop a love of cycling as a legitimate sport among young people.

“Some of the kids I talked to during those discussions said they never thought of cycling as athletics,” Tolman said. “They considered bicycles as a Christmas present, a toy for children as a playful thing.”

Bess Scott of Capital City Cyclists in Dover said she hopes the program will encourage more black young people to join the cycling ranks.

“For me personally, it opens up our group to people who may not know that there is a whole community of black cyclists in the United States and around the world. Maybe they don’t think it’s a thing, ”Scott said. “Perhaps this will help some children start this activity as a normal part of their lives, just like us. It was normal for us to ride. “

As part of the Wilmington Grand Prix bike race this weekend, some of these kids will be riding a few bike laps on the racetrack downtown. The Major Taylor Ride event will give community members the opportunity to take a free U.S.-sanctioned cycling course starting at 11:15 a.m. Saturday morning. Later in the afternoon some of the best cycling pros in the country will compete in the race on the same track.

The joint trip is also part of an effort to spread information about Taylor’s life and achievements to the general public.

“It’s not surprising to me if my family, a friend or someone doesn’t know anything about it,” Hall said. “What should be amazing is what we need to work on to change why all our friends who ride bikes may not know. I don’t just mean our black friends who ride bikes, I mean our white friends who ride bikes, or our Asian friends who ride bikes. Anyone who rides a bike should have some sense or understanding of the connection to who he is. ”

The Wilmington Grand Prix returns for the 14th year of racing and public travel around and around Wilmington this weekend.

After two years of canceling races the best cyclists participating in the U.S. National Racing Calendar are back to take a course through downtown Wilmington and up the challenging Monkey Hill in Brandywine Park. In 2019, the race brought together participants from 19 countries and six countries.

The weekend will begin Friday with a time race in Monkey Hill for 3.2 miles across Brandywine Park from 5pm to 8pm.

Saturday’s activities include a morning trip to Major Taylor, and an afternoon of professional races for women and men.

The governor’s annual 15-mile trip and Delaware Gran Fondo’s 64-mile cap on Sunday’s weekend.

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