When most people think of Harley-Davidson, they rarely associate the name with blacks. The stereotypical motorcycle enthusiast is a bearded, vaguely intimidating white man sporting sunglasses and a leather jacket.
However, Harley-Davidson has recently tried to upend this stereotype by getting more blacks engaged in the riding culture through an exhibition on the evolution of black bikers, which was kicked off in honor of Black History Month.
Some of the company’s most historic black bikers include William B. Johnson, who was the first African-American Harley dealer; Bessie Stringfield, who was the first black woman to ride solo across the country; and Benny Hardy, who was an influential motorcycle club leader. They were all a part of what the company calls the “Iron Elite”:http://www.harley-davidson.com/en_US/Content/Pages/iron-elite/iron-elite.html; a list of African-American motorcycle riding legends.
WATCH AN IRON ELITE VIDEO ON AFRICAN-AMERICAN BIKERS
Harley-Davidson executives are actively trying get more blacks to take part in the riding culture. Recently, the executives invited a select number of African-Americans from different media entities to experience biker culture firsthand from a black perspective.
“African-Americans have influenced and helped shape motorcycle culture throughout our history. Riding culture is seen differently today because of their numerous contributions to it,” said John Comissiong, the director of African-American outreach marketing for the Harley-Davidson Motor Company. “We’re number one in sales to African-Americans, and not only are we very proud of our shared history, we’re always looking for new stories to tell.”
According to reports, African-American reporters were completely immersed into biker culture through Harley-Davidson for three days.
Additionally, the group was given a tour of the Harley-Davidson Museum, which features an African-American exhibition showcasing the evolution of the black motorcycle culture.
From the crash course in riding motorcycles, to the guided tour through the exhibition on black riders, those who were a part of the three-day event were introduced to a new world. The hope is that over time more African-Americans will visit and participate.
In fact, Harley-Davidson dealerships around the country will now feature smaller exhibitions on black riders, so that everyone across the country can become more informed about this often overlooked history within riding culture.