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john baxter taylor
John Baxter Taylor (1882-1908)

 John Baxter Taylor (1882 – 1908) was the first African American to win an Olympic Gold Medal.   Taylor was born in Washington, DC. During his childhood, the family relocated to Philadelphia where he attended Central High School and joined the track team there. He was the team’s only African American member.  After graduating from high school in 1902, Taylor enrolled in Brown Preparatory School where he became the star runner on the track team. One year later, he enrolled in Wharton School of Finance at the University of Pennsylvania. 

As a member of the University of Pennsylvania’s track team, he won the 440-yard run at the Intercollegiate Association of Amateur Athletes of America (IC4A) championship.  Taylor also broke the intercollegiate record with a time of 49 1/5 seconds. He then took some time off from school and returned to his studies in 1906 pursuing a degree in veterinary medicine.  He graduated in 1908. It was also in 1908 that he would compete in the Olympics running in the 600-meter medley relay, the 400-meter leg of the race. The U.S. team won the race making Taylor the first African American gold medal winner. 

Throughout his athletic career, Taylor earned forty-five cups and seventy medals.  Tragically several months after the Olympics Taylor contracted typhoid pneumonia and died.  He was just 26 years old.  

Note:  While Taylor was the first African American to win an Olympic gold medal, George Poage was the first African American athlete to compete in the Olympics.

 Sources: 

http://www.ivy50.com/blackHistory/story.aspx?sid=12/27/2006

Lewis, Femi. “John Baxter Taylor: the First African-American Gold Medalist.” ThoughtCo, Feb. 11, 2020, thoughtco.com/john-baxter-taylor-biography-45222.

https://www.blackpast.org/african-american-history/taylor-john-baxter-jr-1882-1908/