Black people aren’t well represented in motorcycling and motorsport in general. However, that doesn’t mean that we haven’t had people who’ve gone into the sport. In fact, some of the best motorcycle riders have been black.
These riders have broken barriers and opened the door for others who’ve come after them. Let’s look at some of the best African American motorcycle racers in the sport’s history.
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1. Bessie Stringfield
In 1930, Bessie Stringfield became the first African American woman to cycle alone across the United States. She made a total of eight trips and ended up as a rider for the United States Army during World War II.
One thing that makes her achievement impressive is that she did this during the Jim Crow era when racism was at its peak. Despite the bad circumstances, she soldiered on. Throughout her trips, she spent the nights at welcoming homes and gas stations. To finance her trip, she performed stunts at carnivals.
Unfortunately, she died in 1993 from a heart condition. In her honor, the American Motorcycle Association (AMA) started the Bestie Stringfield Memorial Award. Also, she was inducted into the Motorcycle Hall of Fame. This is why Bessie is one of the best African American motorcycle riders to have done the sport.
2. Clifford Vaughs
Clifford Vaughs was a motorcycle designer who is remembered for his role in creating one of the most recognizable choppers of all time used by Captain America. Unfortunately, it took a while before the public acknowledged his role in it. This was partly due to racial inequality, which forced him to leave the country. When the bike was sold, it finally led to his recognition.
3. Tobie Gevie Livingstone
Tobie Gevie Livingstone is one of the pioneering African American motorcycle racers. He was instrumental in creating a space for black motorcycle riders who weren’t accepted into mainstream clubs. He started the Black motorcycle club and authored the Soul on Bikes: The East Bay Dragons MC and the Black Star Set. The book reflects on this club and its experiences.
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4. Tommy ‘Tombo’ Bolton
Tommy Tombo Bolton was one of the most successful African American drag motorcycle riders of all time. In 1990, he went into the history books as the first African American to surpass 200mph at the Texas Motorplex in Ennis. He won 25 national championships and was later inducted into the Harley Davidson Hall of Fame and African American Association Hall of Fame.
5. Rickey Gadson
Rickey Gadson was an 11-time drag racing champion. He started interacting with motorcycles at a young age. Many years after his career, he’s transitioned into teaching others about the sport. He also hosts the event Caffeine and Octane Show.
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6. Jason Britton
Also known as Captain America, he made his mark in the freestyle category. He went into it before it was popular, and his skills, determination, and talents raised the profile of freestyling riding. Jason is a man of many firsts. Here are some of his achievements:
- Worked on producing films like “Waist Deep” and “Bikers Boyz”.
- First motorcycle stunt rider to break into the movie industry – Stunt Double in Motion Pictures
- Most recognized sportbike-freestyle stunt rider in the world
- First sportbike freestyle rider to host his own TV show – “Stealth Rider” and “SuperBikes”
- First motorcycle stunt rider to become “executive editor” of a magazine – “2Wheel Tuner Magazine”
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7. Porsche Taylor
Porsche Taylor first rode on a bike as a passenger. She often did this with her cousin but didn’t like the experience. She decided to take the front seat, bought her first bike on Craigslist, and began riding. 20 years on, she still keeps at it and has expanded her horizons.
In 2011, she founded the Black Girls Ride magazine to amplify the presence of black women and girls in the sport. She also organizes events to celebrate African American female motorcycle riders.
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8. James ‘Bubba’ Stewart
James was a child protege who lived up to the expectations. He became one of the best African American motorcycle riders of his time. Starting at three, he became the first black rider to win the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) Crown. He has a total of:
- 28 wins in AMA Motorcross
- 18 wins in AMA Supercross
- 50 wins in AMA Supercross 3
- 20 wins in AMA Motocross 3
The motorsport industry still remains tough for African Americans to go into. That said, these riders listed above have done well and their stories keep inspiring those who want to enter into the industry.
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