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In the tradition of The Boys in the Boat and Seabiscuit, a fascinating portrait of a groundbreaking but forgotten figure—the remarkable Major Taylor, the black man who broke racial barriers by becoming the world’s fastest and most famous bicyclist at the height of the Jim Crow era. In the 1890s, the nation’s promise of equality had failed spectacularly. While slavery had en In the tradition of The Boys in the Boat and Seabiscuit, a fascinating portrait of a groundbreaking but forgotten figure—the remarkable Major Taylor, the black man who broke racial barriers by becoming the world’s fastest and most famous bicyclist at the height of the Jim Crow era. In the 1890s, the nation’s promise of equality had failed spectacularly. While slavery had ended with the Civil War, the Jim Crow laws still separated blacks from whites, and the excesses of the Gilded Age created an elite upper class. Amidst this world arrived Major Taylor, a young black man who wanted to compete in the nation’s most popular and mostly white man’s sport, cycling. Birdie Munger, a white cyclist who once was the world’s fastest man, declared that he could help turn the young black athlete into a champion. Twelve years before boxer Jack Johnson and fifty years before baseball player Jackie Robinson, Taylor faced racism at nearly every turn—especially by whites who feared he would disprove their stereotypes of blacks. In The World’s Fastest Man, years in the writing, investigative journalist Michael Kranish reveals new information about Major Taylor based on a rare interview with his daughter and other never-before-uncovered details from Taylor’s life. Kranish shows how Taylor indeed became a world champion, traveled the world, was the toast of Paris, and was one of the most chronicled black men of his day. From a moment in time just before the arrival of the automobile when bicycles were king, the populace was booming with immigrants, and enormous societal changes were about to take place, The World’s Fastest Man shines a light on a dramatic moment in American history—the gateway to the twentieth century.


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In the tradition of The Boys in the Boat and Seabiscuit, a fascinating portrait of a groundbreaking but forgotten figure—the remarkable Major Taylor, the black man who broke racial barriers by becoming the world’s fastest and most famous bicyclist at the height of the Jim Crow era. In the 1890s, the nation’s promise of equality had failed spectacularly. While slavery had en In the tradition of The Boys in the Boat and Seabiscuit, a fascinating portrait of a groundbreaking but forgotten figure—the remarkable Major Taylor, the black man who broke racial barriers by becoming the world’s fastest and most famous bicyclist at the height of the Jim Crow era. In the 1890s, the nation’s promise of equality had failed spectacularly. While slavery had ended with the Civil War, the Jim Crow laws still separated blacks from whites, and the excesses of the Gilded Age created an elite upper class. Amidst this world arrived Major Taylor, a young black man who wanted to compete in the nation’s most popular and mostly white man’s sport, cycling. Birdie Munger, a white cyclist who once was the world’s fastest man, declared that he could help turn the young black athlete into a champion. Twelve years before boxer Jack Johnson and fifty years before baseball player Jackie Robinson, Taylor faced racism at nearly every turn—especially by whites who feared he would disprove their stereotypes of blacks. In The World’s Fastest Man, years in the writing, investigative journalist Michael Kranish reveals new information about Major Taylor based on a rare interview with his daughter and other never-before-uncovered details from Taylor’s life. Kranish shows how Taylor indeed became a world champion, traveled the world, was the toast of Paris, and was one of the most chronicled black men of his day. From a moment in time just before the arrival of the automobile when bicycles were king, the populace was booming with immigrants, and enormous societal changes were about to take place, The World’s Fastest Man shines a light on a dramatic moment in American history—the gateway to the twentieth century.

30 review for The World's Fastest Man: The Extraordinary Life of Cyclist Major Taylor, America's First Black Sports Hero

  1. 5 out of 5

    Steve

    A very good (enjoyable, informative) piece of biography (and, more broadly, history and sports/cycling history) that also makes a nice contribution to a nice, diverse, growing literature that (effectively, importantly) reminds us how horrific the nation's history is with regard to race (in this case, in particular, between the Civil War and the Civil Rights movement). If you're not inclined to pick up a book about bicycle racing, may I suggest you consider the book instead as another opportunity A very good (enjoyable, informative) piece of biography (and, more broadly, history and sports/cycling history) that also makes a nice contribution to a nice, diverse, growing literature that (effectively, importantly) reminds us how horrific the nation's history is with regard to race (in this case, in particular, between the Civil War and the Civil Rights movement). If you're not inclined to pick up a book about bicycle racing, may I suggest you consider the book instead as another opportunity to gain familiarity with our oft-ignored history of race and racism. In that context, I might comfortably shelve this book alongside Isabel Wilkerson's monumental Warmth of Other Suns, Gilbert King's Pulitzer Prize winning Devil in the Grove, or maybe even David Grann's stunning Killers of the Flower Moon (although that might be a stretch). As cycling books go, it's a very different animal ... and, frankly, I don't think Kranish was writing for cyclists, which, admittedly, is a small slice of the reading public. Had he been doing so, I expect there would have been more of a head nod to Nelson Vails, the 1984 Olympian (and, I believe, the first African American to medal is a cycling discipline). For cyclists (or fans) who read cycling history - and more broadly, for cyclists (or fans) that religiously followed Vails, Major Taylor was was a major historical figure and, in many ways, a benchmark. As cycling biographies go, this reminded me most of Aili McConnon's (to my mind) well-worth-reading Road to Valor (which, of course, covers a different rider, during a later era - the early Grand Tour years ... and, of course, WWII, in a very different setting (Italy)). But the two books are similar in that, while they cover bicycle racing, the biographical subjects become bigger (and more important) than just cycling or riders or racers. And, well, until his autobiographical books (largely written by/with Sally Jenkins) had to be moved from the non-fiction to the fiction shelves, Lance Armstrong - for his important and impressive work in the cancer community - was in a similar circle. But I digress... I understand why the publisher is marketing the book as in the tradition of Seabiscuit or Boys in the Boat ... and, yes, they are similar in construction and scope and aspiration. And, yes, both Seabiscuit and Boys in the Boat are, arguably, sports history books. But, as much as I enjoyed this book (and recommend it strongly), I'm hard pressed to conclude that it belongs in the same tier. To be clear, the story is compelling, the history is incredibly well sourced and supported by a wealth of research, and the author deserves praise for the work as a whole. But I just don't see the book gaining the popularity of either Seabiscuit or Boys in the Boat - to my mind, it just wasn't as artfully presented, it didn't read quite as smoothly, and, at one level, it was easier to put down (although I did plow through it quite quickly). Still, I strongly recommend it, and I'm glad I read it.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Susan Roberts

    What I loved about this book was the way the author told Major Taylor’s story, setting it in context with current events of the day. I’ve read another biography of Major Taylor, but this book goes to great pains to point out the rampant racism that Taylor endured. You cannot read the appalling quotes from articles and speeches of the period without noting how remarkable it was that the Major did not emerge from these experiences as an embittered and angry person. There is no doubt that he was a What I loved about this book was the way the author told Major Taylor’s story, setting it in context with current events of the day. I’ve read another biography of Major Taylor, but this book goes to great pains to point out the rampant racism that Taylor endured. You cannot read the appalling quotes from articles and speeches of the period without noting how remarkable it was that the Major did not emerge from these experiences as an embittered and angry person. There is no doubt that he was a great athlete who paved the way for other African Americans, but he was also a person of integrity and grace, and for that I respect him even more.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Lynn

    Major Taylor, a top cyclist at the turn of the 20th century. He Was African American and struggled not only to be at the top of his game but defy the racists. That constantly tried to pull him down. Good book.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Steve Ledoux

    An amazing story of a great, but forgotten man, who overcame racist America to be a true champion

  5. 5 out of 5

    David Schwartz

    A great story about a very noteworthy athlete who's gone largely unnoticed in the annals of competition. Marshall 'Major' Taylor was poised and self-assured in the face of unrelenting racism at a time when Blacks generally were not permitted to compete directly against Whites. It's also fun to learn about how bicycling dominated international sports when new, basic cycling technologies were being invented daily (or so it must have seemed!!). A great story about a very noteworthy athlete who's gone largely unnoticed in the annals of competition. Marshall 'Major' Taylor was poised and self-assured in the face of unrelenting racism at a time when Blacks generally were not permitted to compete directly against Whites. It's also fun to learn about how bicycling dominated international sports when new, basic cycling technologies were being invented daily (or so it must have seemed!!).

  6. 5 out of 5

    Sue King

    Good non-fiction read of an athlete you’ve probably never heard of. The achievements of Major Taylor are many and impressive, especially in light of the blatant racism and Jim Crow laws that tried to keep him down.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    The main comment I have is that this is very well done overall as far as how the author shaped the story of Taylor's life he is trying to present, and it is "good read" (so to speak). The usual pitch for this book always seems to have Taylor as a "forgotten" figure of sports history, but I don't agree with that. First, how many sports stars of 120+ years ago can any of us name? And aside from that, Taylor has had something like three or four other biographies written about him plus at least as ma The main comment I have is that this is very well done overall as far as how the author shaped the story of Taylor's life he is trying to present, and it is "good read" (so to speak). The usual pitch for this book always seems to have Taylor as a "forgotten" figure of sports history, but I don't agree with that. First, how many sports stars of 120+ years ago can any of us name? And aside from that, Taylor has had something like three or four other biographies written about him plus at least as many various kinds of children's books. And then there is Taylor's own autobiography, which is freely available to read on the Internet. https://hdl.handle.net/2027/mdp.39015... copyright was not renewed after 28 years (after 1928 when it was published) so it is now in the public domain. Kranish talks about Taylor's efforts to create and publish this book, but I'm not sure it is clear how much he (and other biographers) rely on Taylor's own book for their work. However Taylor's own book is not an easy read, even if in places it is quite interesting as he describes his thinking during races for example. The main part of Taylor's life that is presented differently here than in previous biographies is the significance of the growing racism in America during his cycling career. This is not a happy story, but it certainly has significance for us today. There are unmistakable parallels. As a "utilitarian" cyclist (I use a bike to get to work) I still have some interest in bicycle racing history and the development of racing bicycles. The author describes himself as someone interested in and knowledgeable about cycling; I thought he could have added a few points to clarify certain things for non-cyclists about bicycle racing then, but this is a quibble. I felt I came away with a better understanding of his riding career from this book than some of the previous ones.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Charles Francis

    This is a fascinating read. As an African-American, male, a cyclist, and someone who grew up in the deep south, this book resonated with me on several fronts. Taylor, is truly an American hero. He defied all the stereotypes, the poverty, setbacks, parochialism, and biggest barrier of them all, blatant and unadulterated racism. Where mere mortals would have capitulated early on, Taylor showed that he in fact was a gift from God to the athletic world and to the African-American race. If you did no This is a fascinating read. As an African-American, male, a cyclist, and someone who grew up in the deep south, this book resonated with me on several fronts. Taylor, is truly an American hero. He defied all the stereotypes, the poverty, setbacks, parochialism, and biggest barrier of them all, blatant and unadulterated racism. Where mere mortals would have capitulated early on, Taylor showed that he in fact was a gift from God to the athletic world and to the African-American race. If you did not know the setting was in the late 1800s early 1900s, reading about how racism from the despicable Jim Crowe laws to the vitriol espoused by some during that era, you would think and feel like you were in 2019. A lot has changed since then in the advancement of People of Color in the sports arena, but unfortunately many things have not, both within and outside the area of sports. The author pulls no punches in describing the realities of Taylor’s world and what he had to overcome, to become the fastest man in the world. This is a good read for anyone interested in cycling history and the tragedies and triumphs of one of America’s unsung sports heroes.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    Just concluded THE WORLDS FASTEST MAN by Michael Kranish. I wanted to see his presentation at the KCMO Library a few weeks ago but life got in the way. : : I had some knowledge of MAJOR TAYLOR. I got caught up in the Triathlon craze in the late '80s and cycling was 50% of that sport. As a result, I entered a few cycling events with mixed results. : : Cycling was the most popular spectator sport at the turn of the century. Cyclist made more money than baseball players. Major had a considerable influe Just concluded THE WORLDS FASTEST MAN by Michael Kranish. I wanted to see his presentation at the KCMO Library a few weeks ago but life got in the way. : : I had some knowledge of MAJOR TAYLOR. I got caught up in the Triathlon craze in the late '80s and cycling was 50% of that sport. As a result, I entered a few cycling events with mixed results. : : Cycling was the most popular spectator sport at the turn of the century. Cyclist made more money than baseball players. Major had a considerable influence on Jackie Robinson's entry into MLB as well as Jack Johnson's entrance into professional boxing. : : Major askewed alcohol, nicotine and believed in sessions of lower intensity cycling and walking even though he dominated the sprinting events. : : Remember that during your next WOD. 😁

  10. 4 out of 5

    Malcolm

    Possibly the most powerful of sport’s myths is the claim to equal opportunity, which is obviously limited in terms of access to the field of play, but less obviously so once athletes make it to the field. Michael Kranish’s biography of Marshall Walter (‘Major’) Taylor not only shows how both those myths have a direct impact on an individual athlete but also how they are potently interwoven. Taylor, one of the most high profile cyclists of the late 1890s and 1900s and the only African American at Possibly the most powerful of sport’s myths is the claim to equal opportunity, which is obviously limited in terms of access to the field of play, but less obviously so once athletes make it to the field. Michael Kranish’s biography of Marshall Walter (‘Major’) Taylor not only shows how both those myths have a direct impact on an individual athlete but also how they are potently interwoven. Taylor, one of the most high profile cyclists of the late 1890s and 1900s and the only African American at that level, confronted virulent racist attitudes and practices that both sought the exclude him from the sport, and then saw his white opponents collude in efforts to prevent his success. On both fronts he overcame the exclusion, but at considerable cost. Taylor, Indiana born and raised, was the son of a Black Civil War veteran, who was introduced to cycling early through a childhood friend from a rich White family, who was able to pursue cycling through work in a local cycle shop where he demonstrated a prodigious talent for performance and soon, through those associations, became known to high performance competitive cyclists one of whom took him under his wing. Yet, despite these opportunities, Taylor lived in a world where he promises of post-Civil War Reconstruction were becoming replaced by Jim Crow, by oppression flowing from nativist racism again on the rise in the 1890s and by deep-seated attitudes that were barely suppressed in the north, let alone the south. As cycling’s organisations imposed a colour bar, promoters recognised his talent and financial impact so signed him anyway, and as much as Kranish has been able to reconstruct his record, allowing for all the uncertainties and inaccuracies of the era, Taylor was a dominant figures in his appearances both in the USA and beyond – he spent two seasons in Europe, focused on France, and made to tours of Australia. In building his narrative Kranish was lucky to have access to Taylor’s scrapbooks, where he kept newspaper stories of his career, and to have interviewed his daughter, who although estranged from her teens after the breakdown of his marriage, provided rich family evidence. The book is particularly strong on Taylor’s career, in part because of the scrapbooks, in part because of cycling’s very high profile in the 1890s before the automobile took over, but in part also because of the growing quality of scholarship around the sport in that era. This means he is able to tease out tales of rivalry with rich accounts of specific races, including tactics employed. It also means that his account of Taylor’s post-racing life is very sparse as he disappears from the public record, falls into poverty and died homeless during the Depression of the 1930s. It is a bleak story in some ways of an exceptional athlete who overcame great adversity until it finally defeated him. He has added considerably to early cycling history with a rich exploration of the ways wider racist attitudes pervaded the everyday experiences of athletes, both individually and structurally through the sport’s organisations. It is important that this is the tale of a Northern athlete, reminding us also that while Jim Crow may have been the fullest expression of racial oppression, it found different forms in different places to similar ends powerfully debunking the myth of equal opportunity. Kranish uses contextual material well to paint a picture of the Guilded Age adding the exclusions of class to the social context to depict a society of huge variations and inequalities on several fronts. Engagingly written, well-paced and without being heavy handed, this is a valuable addition to the literature of the era.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Dominique King

    I would not normally read about cycling, but reserved this book at my local library at the suggestion of a friend and really enjoyed it. Major Taylor was not a person I had heard of before, but he really did have an amazing, if not at times...sad, life. I learned a lot about the early days of cycling and it's real popularity in the pre-automobile era. The struggles Taylor experienced as he battled not only his fellow bicyclists, but the days of racism during the Jim Crow era, the rise of the KKK I would not normally read about cycling, but reserved this book at my local library at the suggestion of a friend and really enjoyed it. Major Taylor was not a person I had heard of before, but he really did have an amazing, if not at times...sad, life. I learned a lot about the early days of cycling and it's real popularity in the pre-automobile era. The struggles Taylor experienced as he battled not only his fellow bicyclists, but the days of racism during the Jim Crow era, the rise of the KKK during the 1910s and 1920s and Taylor's search to really settle into a life and to provide for his family even as his early cycling fame faded when autos really took over. The need for speed...and respect...are heavy themes in this book. The book is well worth searching out even if you aren't a cyclist. A love for history (even learning about the not-so-nice parts of our American story) made this story fascinating for me. Reminded me a bit of stories like Josephine Baker's...where she had to leave the US to find a lot of the recognition and respect she really deserved....as did Taylor did at times,

  12. 4 out of 5

    Wendy

    At times I didn’t think I would finish this book. The author claimed that doing research for it forced him to read “dense” material. I felt that pain. Much of this book is a very detailed (dense) history of the bicycle and the automobile. Parts were VERY interesting though. I could have done without a detailed description of EVERY race in which Major Taylor competed, but as a cyclist and former track runner, I could appreciate many of the tactical descriptions. The racism that Taylor endured dur At times I didn’t think I would finish this book. The author claimed that doing research for it forced him to read “dense” material. I felt that pain. Much of this book is a very detailed (dense) history of the bicycle and the automobile. Parts were VERY interesting though. I could have done without a detailed description of EVERY race in which Major Taylor competed, but as a cyclist and former track runner, I could appreciate many of the tactical descriptions. The racism that Taylor endured during the Jim Crow era? Wow. And I was constantly amazed by his grit and determination. A few days after his worst crash, he had his trainer pull giant scabs off his legs so that he could move freely and race - despite the blood running down his legs. Taylor should be more well known - at the very least in the cycling community - but this isn’t the book to make that happen. (A quick internet search shows that several Major Taylor cycling clubs exist around the country - so there’s that!)

  13. 5 out of 5

    Chance Barber

    An amazing story. Equal parts triumphant & heartbreaking... Triumphant in Major Taylor’s cycling record is beyond impressive! Heartbreaking in the treatment he received purely due to his skin color. A true Champion in how he handled himself despite fellow racers & society at large. Incredible to hear the scope & popularity of cycling racing during that time period. The added historical references by the author were helpful at giving background to what was happening in Major Taylor’s life and the An amazing story. Equal parts triumphant & heartbreaking... Triumphant in Major Taylor’s cycling record is beyond impressive! Heartbreaking in the treatment he received purely due to his skin color. A true Champion in how he handled himself despite fellow racers & society at large. Incredible to hear the scope & popularity of cycling racing during that time period. The added historical references by the author were helpful at giving background to what was happening in Major Taylor’s life and the world at the time. I highly recommend this book to cycling fans, those interested in a perspective on early race relations in the United States as well as Internationally, and history of the the bicycle transitioning to automobile.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Hancock

    This was an interesting book but it tended to stray from the main themes of the book; Major Taylor and racism in Major's lifetime. The forays away from the main themes are often interesting but my feeling is that the book could have been considerably shorter. A note about spoilers: The book includes photographs. My policy has always been to not look at a book's photographs until I have read through the chapter that contains the images. I do this because I want to learn all that I can from the tex This was an interesting book but it tended to stray from the main themes of the book; Major Taylor and racism in Major's lifetime. The forays away from the main themes are often interesting but my feeling is that the book could have been considerably shorter. A note about spoilers: The book includes photographs. My policy has always been to not look at a book's photographs until I have read through the chapter that contains the images. I do this because I want to learn all that I can from the text with the images being just a visual treat. In this book the images contain a bit of a spoiler about Major's final years. I did not enjoy knowing this before reading of it

  15. 5 out of 5

    David Campbell

    American author and investigative political reporter for the Washington Post Michael Kranish’s sturdy, fast-paced biography of pioneering African-American cyclist and 1899 UCI Track Cycling World Champion Marshall W. "Major" Taylor. Somewhere between the ancient horse and the modern automobile the bicycle EXPLODES out of France in 1875 and lands within economic reach of prince and pauper alike. As pro cycling’s 1st gen of warriors gather for grueling 6-day indoor track races in the sport’s infan American author and investigative political reporter for the Washington Post Michael Kranish’s sturdy, fast-paced biography of pioneering African-American cyclist and 1899 UCI Track Cycling World Champion Marshall W. "Major" Taylor. Somewhere between the ancient horse and the modern automobile the bicycle EXPLODES out of France in 1875 and lands within economic reach of prince and pauper alike. As pro cycling’s 1st gen of warriors gather for grueling 6-day indoor track races in the sport’s infancy before Le Tour de France one rider, the son of freed Kentucky slaves, rises above the KKK, Jim Crow, and the competition to become the fastest of them all.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Dave

    There is a lot of good material I here. Taylor's early life was interesting and it was nice to learn something about the early history of bicycle racing. The author also does a good job of describing the racist policies and personal discrimination Taylor had to overcome. On the negative side, the book spent too much time on the specifics of many individual competitions that, in my view, did not add much to the narrative. As I was reading, I reflected on how this story would have been best presen There is a lot of good material I here. Taylor's early life was interesting and it was nice to learn something about the early history of bicycle racing. The author also does a good job of describing the racist policies and personal discrimination Taylor had to overcome. On the negative side, the book spent too much time on the specifics of many individual competitions that, in my view, did not add much to the narrative. As I was reading, I reflected on how this story would have been best presented as an execellent magazine article, only to learn in the acknowledgments that this was the original form.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Scott Schneider

    Major Taylor was America's first black sports hero. Well before Jack Johnson took to the rink and Jackie Robinson took to the field. He wowed audiences in the US, Europe and Australia. His career was cut short by the automobile which quickly ended America's love affair with bicycles. Bicycles are making a come back so now is the perfect time to learn about Taylor. A fascinating history of bicycling, racism and technology. I wish there was footage of him so I could see him make his famous "jump" Major Taylor was America's first black sports hero. Well before Jack Johnson took to the rink and Jackie Robinson took to the field. He wowed audiences in the US, Europe and Australia. His career was cut short by the automobile which quickly ended America's love affair with bicycles. Bicycles are making a come back so now is the perfect time to learn about Taylor. A fascinating history of bicycling, racism and technology. I wish there was footage of him so I could see him make his famous "jump" at the end of each race.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Melissa Irwin

    Hmmm. The writing of the cyclist’s actual life was not that great and actually really boring like a fifth grade book report. I respect the athlete and what he went through, just didn’t care for the style of how it was told. BUT the information about the times was fantastic. The historical notes of race relations, politics and what it was like at the turn of the century was very interesting and sobering. It led to a www search to watch minstrel shows and Birth of a Nation. Horrible the roots of o Hmmm. The writing of the cyclist’s actual life was not that great and actually really boring like a fifth grade book report. I respect the athlete and what he went through, just didn’t care for the style of how it was told. BUT the information about the times was fantastic. The historical notes of race relations, politics and what it was like at the turn of the century was very interesting and sobering. It led to a www search to watch minstrel shows and Birth of a Nation. Horrible the roots of our divisive country.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Diane Busch

    I learned more about the history of cycling than I ever thought I wanted to know. But the story of Marshall Major Taylor is very interesting. He had such a struggle throughout his racing career due to being a black man in a sport filled with non-black men. It angered me so much to read about how he was treated - in some places he wasn't even able to eat before a race or get a hotel room because of racism. I learned more about the history of cycling than I ever thought I wanted to know. But the story of Marshall Major Taylor is very interesting. He had such a struggle throughout his racing career due to being a black man in a sport filled with non-black men. It angered me so much to read about how he was treated - in some places he wasn't even able to eat before a race or get a hotel room because of racism.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Peter Heisler

    This book thoroughly and excitingly chronicles Major Taylor's races--though it's hard to keep track of all of them, even with Kranish's assists. I suppose that's one of the remarkable aspects of Taylor's career, as conveyed here. The political and social context were interesting to read about, as with the parallels to American society today. These areas are where Kranish's skill and experience as a journalist come through, though the writing is a little flat and documentary in tone. This book thoroughly and excitingly chronicles Major Taylor's races--though it's hard to keep track of all of them, even with Kranish's assists. I suppose that's one of the remarkable aspects of Taylor's career, as conveyed here. The political and social context were interesting to read about, as with the parallels to American society today. These areas are where Kranish's skill and experience as a journalist come through, though the writing is a little flat and documentary in tone.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Amy Jones

    A solid 3.5 stars. This man was amazing and barely anyone has heard about him. He broke the race barrier 50 yrs before Jackie Robinson. His training and nutrition were interesting since most people didn’t know about those things back then. What really really bothered me was the flagrant racism. It was pervasive and dangerous. Even in the north. And on the track. How people can treat someone like that is completely beyond me. This was my first Audible book thx to hubby bday gift subscription!

  22. 5 out of 5

    Kendra Schofield

    This book is beautifully written. The information provided about turn-of-the-century cycling was eye-opening, and is a heartbreaking read about the life of Major Taylor. You find times you feel as though you are on the sidelines cheering him on, and other times your heart sinks for him during the lows. Michael Kranish is an expert story-teller and fact writer, and this book keeps you interested the whole time.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    I really enjoyed this book. While I cycle, you don't have to get into this book and the story. It's about Major Taylor - a world champion black cyclist in from 1890s~1910. You hear both his story and get a glimpse into the challenges he faced during Jim Crow and the blatant racism from his country, community, and in his sport. I personally liked Kranish's writing style but it does come off a bit book-report-ish at times. I really enjoyed this book. While I cycle, you don't have to get into this book and the story. It's about Major Taylor - a world champion black cyclist in from 1890s~1910. You hear both his story and get a glimpse into the challenges he faced during Jim Crow and the blatant racism from his country, community, and in his sport. I personally liked Kranish's writing style but it does come off a bit book-report-ish at times.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Betsy

    This was a compelling look at the life of an incredible cyclist at the turn of the century, and overall a fun and enlightening read. The story of Major Taylor's life intertwines with aspects of history I have never known: the advent of bikes in all walks of life in the US at the turn of the century, the competition between "wheelmen" and "horsemen," the desperation and danger involved in bike-racing, and more. This was a compelling look at the life of an incredible cyclist at the turn of the century, and overall a fun and enlightening read. The story of Major Taylor's life intertwines with aspects of history I have never known: the advent of bikes in all walks of life in the US at the turn of the century, the competition between "wheelmen" and "horsemen," the desperation and danger involved in bike-racing, and more.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Kirk

    Not sure if I missed it in the book.... Worcester has really done a good job recently. There is a Major Taylor Blvd and statue dedicated in 2008(Disclaimer..I was there!!! Greg Lemond signed my program. The great Edwin Moses was there too!!!!!). Lol at myself...I tried the George St challenge solo three years ago but only made it 2/3 up.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Alice

    Chock full of great historical information in general and specifically about bicycling. Indiana folks--much of that history is in Indianapolis! I expect children's picture and chapter books to follow this important book about the first African-American sports star whose name has fallen through the cracks. Chock full of great historical information in general and specifically about bicycling. Indiana folks--much of that history is in Indianapolis! I expect children's picture and chapter books to follow this important book about the first African-American sports star whose name has fallen through the cracks.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Cheryl Petersen

    A revealing and necessary spotlight on human history and progress. Not only did I get a better idea of cycling before the modern bicycles, but also the road infrastructures before major highways. Kranish's focus on Major Taylor and his allies was greatly appreciated when soaking in this wonderful story. A revealing and necessary spotlight on human history and progress. Not only did I get a better idea of cycling before the modern bicycles, but also the road infrastructures before major highways. Kranish's focus on Major Taylor and his allies was greatly appreciated when soaking in this wonderful story.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Wade Self

    There were many aspects of this story that I enjoyed. The author does a particularly good job keeping the struggles Taylor faced as a black man at the beginning of the 20th Century at the forefront of the book. I also was struck by how many similar theme of a capitalist society ring true 120 years later.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Sara Goldenberg

    I follow professional cycling and ask my librarian to recommend books for me from their Shelf Help program. This is something I would probably not have chosen on my own. It's well-written and interesting. He unfortunately did not live happily ever after which is sad. He would have been a wonderful role model today!!! I follow professional cycling and ask my librarian to recommend books for me from their Shelf Help program. This is something I would probably not have chosen on my own. It's well-written and interesting. He unfortunately did not live happily ever after which is sad. He would have been a wonderful role model today!!!

  30. 4 out of 5

    Myra

    3.5 stars Fact-filled book about Major Taylor, a black cyclist, who was one of the first athletes to try to break the color barrier in US sports. I had no idea that cycling was such a popular sport at the turn of the last century, so that was fascinating to me. The actual details of the races often gets dull, but the coverage of race issues and Jim Crow is very well done.

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