Major Taylor in Germany

Major Taylor, the African American champion cyclist, gained worldwide fame in 1899. He started in his first ever track race in Europe on April 8th 1901 in Berlin-Friedenau. Many professional track races in Germany followed in the subsequent years. However, the literature on Major Taylor almost completely ignores his appearances in Germany. Lars Amenda now just published an article (in German) on the unknown chapter of Major Taylor’s career and his reception by the German media and public.

Lars Amenda: „Major Taylor, der schwarze Star!“ Radrennsport in Deutschland um 1900 zwischen Fairness und Rassismus [“Major Taylor, the black star!” Cycle Racing in Germany Around 1900 Between Fairness and Racism], in: Stadion. Internationale Zeitschrift für die Geschichte des Sports / International Journal of the History of Sport / Revue Internationale d’Histoire du Sport 46 (2022), p. 195-223. Journal Link


Marshall Walter „Major“ Taylor (1878–1932) was a massively popular Black US American cyclist around 1900. In late 19th century United States he encountered severe racism in cycling and beyound despite (or because) his obvious sportive talent. In 1899 he won the world championship in sprinting the mile and became a professional track cyclist. In Europe, in France in particular, the cycling world impatiently looked forward for him particpating in races. In 1901 he finally travelled abroad for his first European tour. The paper examines Major Taylor’s appearances in Germany, focusing on the years 1901 to 1903. His first ever start in Europe took place in Berlin-Friedenau on April 8, 1901. Major Taylor was regarded as a huge sensation in the highly popular track cycling around the turn of the 20th century. The influential German cycling newspaper Rad-Welt promoted him and welcomed him personally in their Berlin office after his first races. German rivals such as Willy Arend from Hannover faced the Black US American cyclist with highest respect. Nevertheless, a few riders and parts of the audience showed some racist behavior, including blackfacing before his first ever start. However, the Rad-Welt strongly condemmed unfair tactics against Major Taylor and generally called for fairness. Major Taylor successfully participated in a number of track races in German cities such as Berlin, Hannover, Cologne and others from 1901 to 1903 and remained a sport celebrity in Germany for many years. In the course of the 20th century his fame then waned both in the US and Germany.

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