In the 1890s, Kittie Knox, an African-American bicyclist form Boston, broke racial and gender barriers by entering (and winning) cycling races and contests.
In the 1890s, bicycling was a cultural activity for the wealthy elite, with a bicycle costing about five months of a laborer’s pay. Kittie Knox, a seamstress by trade, became a member of the Riverside Cycling Club of Boston, one of the first groups of its kind for African-Africans. She quickly established herself as a skilled bicyclist, participating in a number of races and finishing in the top 20% of every race, outpacing most of her male competitors. She also set herself apart by wearing hand-sewn pants rather than the customary long skirts worn by women.
In 1893 she joined the League of American Wheelmen (LAW), a primary male organization. A year later, LAW barred African-Americans from membership. Kittie Knox did not take this raciest decision sitting down. She decided to challenge it head-on by showing up at the annual meeting in Asbury Park, New Jersey. She arrived performing fancy tricks in a hand-tailored outfit that drew the crowd’s admiration and attention. But Knox was denied entry to the meeting and told to leave, she presented her membership certification but was still refused.
Her bold and courageous stand created an uproar and caught the attention of several major news outlets. The details of her story began to circulate and sparked a debate about segregation in cycling and discrimination in society.
Kittie Knox was a pioneer for shedding light on obstacles facing women and African-Americans in a sport she loved. She is a hero for standing up for what she believed in, for what was right, Kittie Knox changed cycling forever. She Made History.
Sources and Links:
- BLACK HISTORY MONTH AND BICYCLING – Bike Newport
- How Kittie Knox Changed Bicycling Forever – Joe Biel, Medium.com
- Women in Transportation History – Kittie Knox, African-American Cyclist