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Major: A Black Athlete, a White Era, and the Fight to Be the World's Fastest Human Being

3.8  ·  Rating Details ·  123 Ratings  ·  28 Reviews
At the turn of the 20th century, hundreds of handsome, lightning-fast racers won the hearts and minds of a bicycling-crazed public. Scientists studied them, newspapers glorified them, and millions of dollars in purse money was awarded to them. Major Taylor aimed to be the fastest of them all. A prominent black man at a time when such a thing was deemed scandalous, his moun ...more
ebook, 179 pages
Published February 26th 2008 by Crown (first published January 1st 2008)
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(showing 1-30)
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John
May 08, 2008 John rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Good story mired by really cumbersome, speculative writing. Balf succeeds in kicking this horse to death and far beyond.
Robert Steele
This was an engrossing read for fans of US history and/or cycling. The story deals with race relations, as it is almost impossible to talk about Major Taylor's life without touching on how race relations in the US affected his attempts to become the fastest man in a world where black men were considered substandard citizens. However, the real story is about his amazing ability on a track bicycle, and it is this vein that, as a cyclist, I was most enthralled. His exploits are amazing, and Todd Ba ...more
Mike Kruse
Major Taylor was a black racing phenom from Indianapolis in the world of white bike racing at the turn of the 20th century. Who knew bicycle racing was so big...thousands of people attending races...some of the races lasted six days! This would make a great film.
Liz
Jun 29, 2010 Liz rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is fantastic. Major Taylor is a fascinating character, and the writer (from my hometown of Beverly) is really interested in cycling and the turn of the 20th century in general. It's great how he manages to convey a lot of suspense despite the fact that we know how it ends (or I did, anyway).

Major Taylor, for those who don't know, was a bicycle racing superstar when the modern bicycle was first invented. Not only was he the fastest man on two wheels, he was African American and was up a
...more
Ariah
Jan 24, 2010 Ariah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010
I'm not usually a fan of history or biographies, but I found the story of Marshall "Major" Taylor fascinating. From the first chapter, the author paints a picture of cycling at right around 1900 that sets the story up in a fascinating light. At that point there were no real spectator sports, no Hollywood, even Broadway hadn't gotten big yet. Cyclist were the biggest celebrities in the world.
Major Taylor, at a time when slavery had only recently been abolished and segregation was a reality all o
...more
Lumberjuan
Jul 28, 2009 Lumberjuan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Amazing that this story isn't better known in the public conscious. The epic rivalry between McFarland and Taylor is described in bristling prose. Considering how important cycling was at the turn of the 20th century - the original Madison Square Garden was a velodrome! - and that to all extents and purposes Major Taylor was the first international sports superstar, it seems bizarre that so little of this is known.

Alicia
Dec 16, 2008 Alicia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Marshall Major Taylor was one of the United States most unlikely heroes. During an era of Jim Crow laws and lynching, Taylor managed to rise to the top of America’s favorite new sport to become the “fastest man alive”. Despite racial injustice and setbacks, he never lost his dignity, moral virtue or his love for the sport of bicycle racing. This is a classic underdog story detailing the life of a little known American hero.
Cat
Jan 09, 2010 Cat rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is a fascinating glimpse of a time when "wheelmen" were the rock stars of the day! Also a case study of a good christian man in a dirty business, a case study in remaining above the fray, and just striving for personal excellence. A must read for studies of African American History at the turn of the Century. A man who ignored bigotry, and rose above hatred to do what he loved.
Katherine
Jul 03, 2008 Katherine marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: not-owned, sports
I'm not especially interested in bicycle racing (though I love bicycling), but this looks like a compelling book about Major Taylor (Chicago has a Major Taylor bike trail, and I wanted to know about the person it's named for).
Mark Zadroga
Aug 14, 2010 Mark Zadroga rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An incredible story of America's first internationally famous sports figure, Major Taylor. Todd Balf crafts a rich tale of America circa 1900 and the spectator sport that once dominated the country, cycling.
Neil
Feb 15, 2010 Neil rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010
Exciting race descriptions (and painful crash details); a good picture of racism in American athletics 60 years before Jackie Robinson; I'm glad to finally have some background on Major: now when I race the George Street annual, I'll have something to talk about.
Justin Dove
Nov 08, 2013 Justin Dove rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I thought this book was fascinating. It's hard to believe this America once existed since it's so rarely talked about. The racial topics weren't a stretch of the imagination, but six-day bicycle races, steam-powered pacing vehicles, a country obsessed with bicycle racing! Crazy.
Michel B.
Apr 02, 2012 Michel B. rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012-reads
Awesome story. Generally well told although I got the feeling that the author was more used to writing for magazine's for newsprint or something. I'm not well placed to criticize - so it's just a question of stylistic taste.
Greg Jerome
I couldn't get into this book. After around 100 pages I didn't develop any affinity for the characters. The story was too disjointed and couldn't hold my interest. Too bad.
Diener
Aug 17, 2009 Diener rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Dave Shelles
Shelves: sports, history, biography
Interesting story about a forgotten, yet important, time in the history of cycling, and the history of America.
Michael
Jan 14, 2016 Michael rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A great story with many, many bibliographical notes, historical references and impressive research.
Squeaky
Biography of the great bicycle champion Major Taylor.
Lee O'Reilly
Great story. Wish the writing were a little presumptuous & a little more factual.
Anthony
Wish this was better, as Major Taylor seemed liked a righteous dude.
Travis
May 06, 2008 Travis rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
"His cycling was an expressino of something beautiful and true and honest in a world that was decidedly otherwise." -p.88.
Stacy
Jan 02, 2011 Stacy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting biography about a cyclist I wasn't familiar with.
Dick
Sep 22, 2008 Dick rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Story of the great days of bike racing. Not well written, but a good story
Michael
Aug 04, 2009 Michael rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: cycling
It seems likely that most people who don't know or care that much about the history of cycling wouldn't find this as interesting as I did, but I liked it.
Meg Bernard
Aug 20, 2008 Meg Bernard rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Inspiring and informative; the prose is a bit overwrought at times, but ultimately the story makes up for it. Unbelievable tenacity.
Patrick
Aug 17, 2014 Patrick rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you like bicycling, you will enjoy this story about Major Taylor, a racing legend, the early days of bicycle racing, and the race relations he had to deal with.
Hardeep
Very interesting book- gives history of track racing. Never realized that it was once such a big thing.
Jennifer
Jul 23, 2008 Jennifer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
This was slow to begin, but got really compelling at the end. There is a world and culture portrayed in this book that I didn't know existed.
Oluwolebankole
Oluwolebankole rated it really liked it
Aug 05, 2011
Edwin Priest
Edwin Priest rated it liked it
Feb 08, 2013
James
James rated it really liked it
Nov 21, 2011
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