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“In a word, I was a pioneer, and therefore had to blaze my own trail.”
—Marshall “Major” Taylor

He earned nicknames that often equated to the most powerful forces in heaven and earth: The Cyclone. The Whirlwind. The Comet. He earned the respect of civil rights pioneer Booker T. Washington. And he shook the hand of President Theodore Roosevelt, who sought out the great champion to congratulate him. Marshall Walter “Major” Taylor was the world’s first Black sports superstar. Reporters simply called him “The Fastest Man in the World.”

Major Taylor: Champion of the Race retraces the life and legacy of an American civil rights pioneer who set more than 20 world records in speed cycling during the heart of Jim Crow America. By the time he was in his early 20s, Major Taylor had captured the world cycling championship, the American cycling crown, and had set dozens of world speed cycling records – all while having to endure withering racial pressures.

The film is narrated by acclaimed opera mezzo-soprano Marietta Simpson, with jazz legend Branford Marsalis reading and interpreting written quotes from Major Taylor. Five-time Emmy Award winning composer/musician Tyron Cooper is crafting a soundtrack for the documentary.

The film features interviews with many top historians, archivists, athletes and activists, who each provide added insight in Taylor’s life and times. Interviews include…

  • 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 Reporter 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
  • Monica Garrison – President, “Black Girls Do Bike”


WTIU on PBS Video

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WTIU HD (30.1)

  • Feb 26 – 8:00pm ET
  • Mar 5 – 10:30pm ET
  • Mar 10 – 6:30pm ET

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