The World's Fastest Man: The Extraordinary Life of Cyclist

The World's Fastest Man: The Extraordinary Life of Cyclist 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 eraIn the s, 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 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 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 An amazing story of a great, but forgotten man, who overcame racist America to be a true champion 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. 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 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 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 timessad, 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 timessad, 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 speedand respectare 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 swhere she had to leave the US to find a lot of the recognition and respect she really deserved.as did Taylor did at times, 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 mademoney 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 mademoney 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 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 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

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