Major Taylor: Champion of the Race

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Explore the remarkable life and legacy of speed cycling champion, civil rights activist, and Hoosier hero Marshall Walter “Major” Taylor through this documentary produced by WTIU. Scan the QR code with your smartphone to watch a preview. This documentary airs beginning Monday, February 26. Check local PBS station listings for dates and times. 

Born in Indianapolis in 1878, Taylor was the world’s first Black sports superstar by the turn of the 20th century. Called “the fastest man in the world” by reporters, Taylor’s talent in cycling—the most popular and lucrative sport of the era—was celebrated by leading publications across the globe and by notable figures such as Booker T. Washington and Theodore Roosevelt.

On the track, Taylor captured more than 20 world records during his career. Off the track, he was an early civil rights pioneer who fought for greater social opportunities for African Americans in the heart of Jim Crow America.

Marietta Simpson, acclaimed opera mezzo-soprano, provides primary narration for the film, with jazz legend Branford Marsalis reading passages from Major Taylor’s autobiography. Original music is composed and performed by Emmy-winning musical director Tyron Cooper. Interviews include insights from several top athletes, sports executives, civil rights activists, historians, and Taylor family members.

Major Funding provided by Allen Whitehall Clowes Charitable Foundation.  Additional support provided by: Little 500, IU Student Foundation, Indiana Public Broadcasting Stations, Inc., Al Cobine Recognition Endowment Fund, and the WFIU/WTIU Documentary Programs Fund.