The American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) is an American nonprofit organization of more than 200,000 motorcyclists that organizes numerous motorcycling activities and campaigns for motorcyclists’ legal rights. Its mission statement is “to promote the motorcycling lifestyle and protect the future of motorcycling.”
The organization was founded in 1924 and as of October 2016 had more than 1,100 chartered clubs. For clubs and promoters it provides guidance and advice on running events and rallies, and allows affiliated members to vote on AMA matters. It also has a corporate membership category with representatives from the US motorcycle industry.
The AMA is the official national federation representative (FMN) for the United States of America in the Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme (FIM), and organizes the US teams and riders for FIM-sanctioned events, including the International Six Day Enduro, Motocross Des Nations and Trials Des Nations.
The AMA was a whites-only organization from its inception in 1924 until the 1950s, not allowing African Americans to join for its first 30 years. A 1930 AMA membership application form, on display at the Harley-Davidson Museum, included the statement “membership is limited to white persons only”. This segregation occurred at a time in American history when many motorcycle dealerships refused to sell motorcycles to black riders, forcing an entire population to create their own culture. The museum exhibit has examples of distinctive uniforms worn by motorcycle clubs, both AMA sanctioned, and those from the separate culture of black or racially desegregated clubs that proliferated as a consequence of the AMA segregation policy, such as the Berkeley Tigers MC from the San Francisco Bay Area.
Prior to the acceptance of black members, the term outlaw motorcycle club could refer to either a white counterculture biker club that was “uninterested in ‘square’ events and competitions”, or else a club that accepted non-white members and was therefore not allowed to participate in the AMA. In the 1920s and 1930s, black hillclimbing racer William B. Johnson evaded the whites-only restriction and obtained an AMA membership card, which allowed him to compete around the Northeastern United States and become perhaps the first black AMA member.
After the racist policy was abolished, AMA-sanctioned motorcycle clubs thrived in the era after World War II when motorcycle sales soared and club membership appealed to “better-adjusted” American veterans who enjoyed group participation and operated under strict bylaws that held club meetings and riding events.
In 1995, AMA President Ed Youngblood said that as a consequence of this racist policy from 1924 to the 1950s, blacks continued to be underrepresented in AMA events for decades after the segregationist policy was rescinded. That year, Youngblood presented black AMA member Norman Gaines in their membership advertisement in the campaign “I want to protect my rights as a motorcyclist. That’s why I’m an AMA member” in both the AMA member magazine and Motorcyclist magazine.