The first freedom rider?

In 1896, Marshall “Major” Taylor sprinted through the color barrier in professional bicycle racing—a wildly popular sport at the time. He was the fastest cyclist in the United States from 1897 to 1900, and the second African American to win a world championship title in sports.

World champion, 1899

World champion, 1899

“Now a few words of advice to boys, and especially to those of my own race. . . .  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 Taylor, 1929

Bicycle racing medal, 1883-1897

Bicycle racing medal, 1883-1897

Gift of Francine B. Holland and H. W. Higham

Reverse of bicycle racing medal, 1883-1897

Reverse of bicycle racing medal, 1883-1897

Gift of Francine B. Holland and H. W. Higham

Bicycle racing medal, 1883-1897

Bicycle racing medal, 1883-1897

Gift of Francine B. Holland and H. W. Higham

Bicycle racing medal, 1883-1897

Bicycle racing medal, 1883-1897

Gift of Francine B. Holland and H. W. Higham

Boston Pursuit cycling team, 1897

Boston Pursuit cycling team, 1897

Black vs. White button

Black vs. White button

Note the focus on interracial competition. Taylor had been a member of the first-ever integrated professional sports team.

From The Colored American, 1901

From The Colored American, 1901

Courtesy of Library of Congress