Hannibal Free Public Library

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

Todd Balf

July 30, 2012

The story of a man who transcended the handicaps of race to become America ís first African American mega sports celebrity.
At the turn of the 20th century, hundreds of 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 were awarded to them. Major Taylor aimed to be the fastest of them all.
Taylor ís most formidable and ruthless opponent-a man nicknamed the "Human Engine" was Floyd McFarland. One man was white, one black; one from a storied Virginia family, the other descended from Kentucky slaves; one celebrated as a hero, one trying to secure his spot in a sport he dominated. The only thing they had in common was the desire to be named the fastest man alive. Finally, in 1904, both men headed to Australia for a much-≠anticipated title match to decide who would claim the coveted title.
Major is the story of a superstar nobody saw coming, the account of a fierce rivalry that would become an archetypal tale of white versus black in the 20th century, and, most of all, the tale of our nationís first black sports celebrity.

1.  What drives Major Taylor to race? 

2.  How do Taylor 's religion and moral rectitude both help and hurt him?

3.  How does Balf set up a duality between Major and McFarland?

4.  How does Taylor affect the reputation of racing?  

5.  How does fashion shape the story of Major Taylor?

6.  How does foreign experience help Taylor ?

7.  What does Balf mean when he describes the "twoness" of Taylor ?  

8.       Is Major a tragedy or a success story?


Questions adapted from: http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,20181321,00.html and