The First African Americans to Win Olympic Medals

John Baxter Taylor

U.S. Olympian John Baxter Taylor in a 1908 portrait.
U.S. Olympian John Baxter Taylor in a 1908 portrait. Taylor won gold at the 1908 London Olympic Games as a member of America’s 1600-meter (one mile) relay team.The History Collection / Alamy Stock Photo

John Baxter Taylor, a student and runner at the University of Pennsylvania, became Dr. Taylor, a veterinarian, in 1908—the same summer he competed in the London Games. “He had a clean-cut business way of covering the ground, with a length of stride seldom seen today, which was firmly impressed on one’s mind,” wrote the Pittsburgh Courier.

Taylor was the first African American athlete to win an Olympic gold medal, triumphing in the 1600-meter relay race at the 1908 Games. Tragically, the damp, cold climate in London took a toll on the 25-year-old’s body. While abroad, he developed a case of typhoid-pneumonia so severe that it proved fatal just months after the Olympics.

Per: History

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