For Kids

Higher, Stronger, Faster: 10 Legendary Black Athletes

02/01/2019 | #WeNeedDiverseBooks, Biography, Black History, Sports, U.S. 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 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, because he was black. 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. Look in this fabulous photo gallery to see picture of Major Taylor racing in the early 1900s.

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.

Higher, Strong, Faster: 10 Legendary Black Athletes

These biographies tell the stories of 10 legendary athletes who excelled at their sport at the highest level while at the same time enduring, challenging, and changing segregation and discrimination both on the field and off, breaking barriers and using their sport to lead the way toward social justice. Take a look at their trailblazing accomplishments. #indyplkids

Twelve Rounds to Glory

The Story of Muhammad Ali

Smith, Charles R.

Muhammad Ali was the 1960 Olympic Gold Medalist in light-heavyweight boxing and was the World Heavyweight Champion three times. Out of the ring he is known for his conversion to Islam and refusal to be drafted into the Army for religious reasons during the Vietnam War. His right to refuse was eventually held up by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Henry Aaron's Dream

Tavares, Matt

Henry "Hank" Aaron held baseball's home run record holder for over 30 years. He was an All-Star and inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982. Major League Baseball established the Hank Aaron Award in 1999 to recognize the top offensive players in each league. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2002. Today, he is the senior vice president of the Atlanta Braves.

Wilma Unlimited

How Wilma Rudolph Became the World's Fastest Woman

Krull, Kathleen

Wilma Rudolph was a sprinter and the 1960 Olympic gold medalist in three events: 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay. In all three events, she broke world records! It was also the first time an American woman won three gold medals in a single Games. After her win, Wilma refused to attend any celebratory events that weren’t integrated. Her homecoming parade and party were the first nonsegregated events in the history of Clarksville, Tennessee.

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 Logo"To 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

~ IndyPL_CarrieW