Black History: Athletes

Black History: Athletes

More Black History

Marshall “Major” Taylor World Champion Cyclist 1899-1901 is the story of a young boy who grew up in Indianapolis over a hundred years ago. Despite living at a time when African-Americans were often denied basic rights, Marshall Taylor became a world champion cyclist. Marshall earned the nickname “Major” when he performed bicycle tricks dressed in a military style costume. When he was a teenager he stopped performing tricks and moved on to bicycle racing – and he was really, really good – world champion good! His story is inspiring because he persevered even when there were many people who didn’t want him to even be in a race, let alone win, just because he was African-American. Sometimes he rode fast just to get away from angry people chasing him!

In Indianapolis, we have the Major Taylor Velodrome, a world-class bicycle racing track named for this cycling great.

Listed below are books, websites & databases that will help you learn about more black athletes and the contributions they have made in their sport and in their communities.

The Muhammad Ali Boxing Game is an Artifact at The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. It showcases the popularity of Ali. How many athletes have a game named after them? During the 1960’s boxer Cassius Clay, who later changed his name to Muhammad Ali, was a positive role model for many African-Americans. Ali was more than a boxer. He expressed his political views on the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War. In 1967, Ali was stripped of his world title due to his refusal to be drafted. After retiring, Ali collaborated with the United Nations to promote peace around the world.

Websites, Activities & Printables:

Biography in Context is a database you can use in any IndyPL Library Branch or at home. Biography in Context will show you biographies, magazines, videos and more about Marshall Taylor and other African American Athletes.​


Use your indyPL Library Card to check out books at any of our locations, or check out e-books and e-audiobooks from home right to your device. Click on a book jacket below to request a book or download it. Need help? Call or ask a Library staff member at any of our locations, text a librarian at 317 333-6877, or leave a comment.

Emmanuel's DreamI Am Jackie RobinsonLeBron JamesReggie Miller from DowntownSomething to Prove the Great Satchel PaigeStephen CurryA Nation's Hope the Legendary Joe LouisBlack History Makers AthletesDaring PlayFair Ball!Gabby DouglasGreat African Americans in SportsHenry Aaron's DreamJesse OwensJumpLeBron JamesNothing But Trouble the Stor of Althea GibsonOn the Court with Stephen CurryQueen of the Track Alice CoachmanRemember My Name Mo'ne DavisSerena WilliamsThe Champ the Story of Muhammad AliTouch the SkyWe Are the ShipWilma Unlimited

To learn even more about fascinating and inspiring black history makers, visit the Center for Black Literature & Culture at Central Library. The Center is dedicated to celebrating the vibrant and resilient heritage and triumphs of those born of African roots.

WeNeedDiverseBooks LogoTo get young people engaged, one of the things they need is to see themselves in books. It is important for all of us to see ourselves in books, because that encourages us to read in a different way and encourages us to write more.” ~ Dr. Jerrie Cobb Scott Founder of the African American Read-in #weneeddiversebooks

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  1. I Really Admire Marshall Taylor,he was part of Olympic Games history. He was the pride of the African-Americans, a shining example for us to follow. Proud of him 🙂

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