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‘Major Taylor’ documentary receives $50,000 grant


WTIU has received a $50,000 grant from the Allen Whitehill Clowes Charitable Foundation to support the production of its upcoming documentary Major Taylor: Champion of the Race.

This groundbreaking film follows the life of speed cycling champion, civil rights activist, and Hoosier hero Marshall “Major” Taylor. Born in Indianapolis, Taylor was the world’s first Black sports superstar. He broke over 20 world records in speed cycling all while breaking down racial barriers. Called “the fastest man in the world” by reporters, Taylor’s talent was lauded by Booker T. Washington, Theodore Roosevelt, and other notable figures. The documentary premieres this February in time for Black History Month.

The grant will support voice-over talent expenses, recording studio fees, photo and film reproduction rights, music composition and performance rights, distribution, and premiere screening events for the documentary.

With the help of the grant, Major Taylor will be narrated by acclaimed mezzo-soprano opera singer Marietta Simpson. Jazz legend Branford Marsalis will provide the voice of Major Taylor, reading and interpreting quotes from Taylor. Five-time Emmy award winning musician Tyron Cooper will be crafting the film’s soundtrack. The documentary will also feature interviews with many top historians, archivists, athletes, and activists, who each provide insight into Taylor’s life and times. Interviews include the following:

Edwin Moses – two-time Olympic gold medalist (track and field)
Karen Brown-Donovan – great-granddaughter of Marshall “Major” Taylor
Richard Lapchick – president of the Institute of Sport and Social Justice
Michael Kranish – Washington Post columnist and Taylor biographer
Randy Roberts – sports historian and author
Kevin Blackistone – ESPN commentator / Washington Post columnist
Lynne Tolman – historian, writer and president of the Major Taylor Association
Tiffany Benedict Browne – historian and founder of “”
Kisha Tandy – curator of social history, Indiana State Museum
James Blake – tennis star and ESPN commentator
Ann Meyers Drysdale – Olympic medalist (basketball) and first female to earn four-year sports scholarship
Nelson Vails – Olympic silver medalist, speed cycling
Gary Sailes – sports sociologist and psychologist
Charlene Fletcher – historian, author and African American studies scholar
Monica Garrison – president, “Black Girls Do Bike”

The Allen Whitehill Clowes Charitable Foundation is dedicated to conserving and supporting the arts and humanities in the greater Indianapolis area. Its founder Allen Whitehill Clowes said that “creative adaptability is the key to successful conservation.”

Learn more about the Allen Whitehill Clowes Charitable Foundation on its website.