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Must-See Documentary, Free to Stream: ‘Champion of the Race,’ the Story of Major Taylor

Major Taylor broke more than 30 world records and became a successful entrepreneur — while dealing with racism during the Jim Crow era.

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Jesse Owens. Jackie Robinson. Muhammad Ali. They all followed behind the first path-breaker for African Americans in sports: Major Taylor.

On Monday, PBS will premiere a new documentary about the extraordinary life of Marshall Walter “Major” Taylor, hailed as the world’s first Black sports superstar. “Major Taylor: Champion of the Race” delves into the legacy of an athlete who succeeded despite the incredible challenges of Jim Crow America.

Taylor, who earned nicknames like “The Cyclone” and “The Whirlwind,” gained widespread acclaim for his speed and athleticism in cycling. Despite the intense racial discrimination of the time, he shattered records, including more than 30 world cycling records.

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Major Taylor rides against Leon Hourlier at the Buffalo Velodrome in 1909; (photo/Agence Rol)

The film is narrated by acclaimed opera mezzo-soprano Marietta Simpson, with jazz legend Branford Marsalis interpreting Taylor’s written words. Five-time Emmy Award-winning composer Tyron Cooper crafted the soundtrack.

Featuring interviews with top historians, archivists, athletes, and activists, the film aims to provide new insight into Taylor’s journey and the challenges he confronted and overcame on his way to greatness.

“He was the one leading that slipstream in a race for racial justice and equality,” one historian says in the trailer above.

Check out the premiere on PBS this Monday, Feb. 26, at 8 p.m. ET. It will also air at 10:30 p.m. on March 5 and 6:30 p.m. on March 10, also in Eastern Time.

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Who Was Major Taylor? Meet the First Black Cycling World Champion

When 20-year-old Major Taylor won the 1-mile World Sprint Championship in 1899, he became the second Black athlete to win a world sports title and the first to win a cycling championship. A year later, he successfully defended his crown. Read more…

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