21 June 2019

The World's Fastest Man: A Century Before Usain Bolt

I haven't owned a television in about six years.  I do, however, listen to a fair amount of radio, mainly the local public and independent stations.

One program to which I listen pretty regularly is "Fresh Air," which is something like a radio version of 60 Minutes dedicated to the arts or contemporary issues.  A couple of nights ago, "Fresh Air" featured Dave Davies (no, not the Kinks' guitarist) interviewing journalist Michael Kranish, whose latest book just came out.

The World's Fastest Man:  The Extraordinary Life of Major Taylor, America's First Black Sports Hero documents, not only Major Taylor's athletic exploits, but his contributions to the cause of civil rights.  He was, arguably, as dominant in cycling of his era as Eddy Mercx or Bernard Hinault were in theirs, and towered over his sport the way Michael Jordan, Martina Navratilova and Wayne Gretzky did in their primes.  But, perhaps even more important, he was as unflinching in the face of discrimination as Jackie Robinson and Muhammad Ali were more than half a century later.

I haven't yet read the book, but I plan to. One reason is that, from what I gather in the interview, Kranish's book shows how bicycle racing was the most popular sport in America and much of Europe and Australia during Taylor's time.  Also, he seems to cover in greater detail the discrimination he faced, not only from restaurants and hotels that refused him service, but also from other racers who sometimes even tried to injure him before or during races.  Finally, during the interview, Kranish mentions business ventured that failed--including one from which a white competitor stole his idea after no bank would finance him.

You can listen to the interview here:

No comments:

Post a Comment