‘Major Taylor: Champion of the Race’ Tells the Story of ‘The Fastest Man in the World’


New documentary ‘Major Taylor: Champion of the Race’ premieres Monday, February 26 at 8 p.m. EST (5 p.m. PST) on WTIU, and streaming through the WTIU website and through the PBS app.

BLOOMINGTON, Indiana (February 5, 2024) — A new documentary from WTIU Public Television explores the life and legacy of speed cycling champion, civil rights activist, and Hoosier hero Marshall Walter “Major” Taylor. Major Taylor: Champion of the Race premieres Monday, February 26 at 8 p.m. on WTIU.

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.

Major Taylor: Champion of the Race is narrated by acclaimed mezzo-soprano opera singer Marietta Simpson, with Grammy-winning jazz musician Branford Marsalis reading passages from Major Taylor’s autobiography. Original music is composed and performed by Emmy-winning musical director Tyron Cooper.

The documentary also includes interviews with ESPN’s Kevin Blackistone; Michael Kranish, a Washington Post writer and Taylor biographer; Richard Lapchick, president of the Institute of Sport and Social Justice; Illinois Congressman Jonathan Jackson (son of civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson); three-time Olympic medalist Edwin Moses; ATP tennis star James Blake; Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame member Ann Meyers Drysdale; Bicycle Hall of Fame member and historian John Howard; plus many other insights from historians, archivists, social rights advocates, and Taylor family members.

Watch a trailer and learn more about Major Taylor: Champion of the Race at wtiu.org/majortaylor. The program will be available to stream on the WTIU website and through the PBS app at the same time as the broadcast premiere.


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