“American history is longer, larger, more various, more beautiful and more terrible than anything anyone has ever said about it.”
— James A. Baldwin
In August 1899 Marshall ‘Major’ Taylor became the first African-American World Champion in any sport. His cycling ability was dominant on a level that few professional sports have ever seen. He was the first African-American to hold world records, and he was the first African-American athlete to have sponsorships. At his peak Major Taylor made close to forty thousand dollars a year, versus a contemporary of his, Ty Cobb who made twenty thousand dollars a year.
All of Major Taylor’s achievements occurred at a time when his cultural identity, and his calling as an athlete were at odds with what the culture of the time wanted or expected. The 1890’s were the golden age of cycling, where human powered machines enjoyed the pinnacle of technological advancement just before the birth of the automobile. At that time, the fastest any human could propel themselves was on a bicycle, and the men that owned the mastery of speed were considered icons. However, during the same time from 1889 to 1918 it is estimated that more than 2,400 African-Americans were hanged or burned at the stake in the United States.
This is the wonderful and barbaric world that Major Taylor struggled through, and excelled in. Ultimately his greatest tragedy is that so few Americans have ever heard the name Major Taylor. That is a circumstance we, through the production of this documentary, would like to change.
MAJOR is a fiscally sponsored project of the Austin Film Society. You can make a donation to this project using the form below. You will receive a letter acknowledging your gift to the Austin Film Society on behalf on the project. Since AFS is a non-profit organization, your donation may be deducted from your taxes as a charitable contribution under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Service code.
About the Director
Lives and works in Austin, Texas but started his audio-visual endeavor in Georgia. After graduating with a bachelors degree in Video Production from the Savannah College of Art and Design Eban worked on the 1996 Olympic Games for NBC in Atlanta, GA. From there he headed north to ESPN and from 1997 to 2004 expanded his experience, knowledge base and relationships while working for the World Wide Leader in Sports. In 2004 Eban founded 13 Productions, LLC and began working for himself with ESPN as a client. As the years passed more clients were added to the 13 Productions roster including New Balance, Commercial Campaigns for ESPN, Reebok, Crossfit Media and NBC. Eban has been nominated for five National Sports Emmy Awards, most recently for the 2014 Ironman World Championships from Kona Hawaii that aired on NBC, which Eban wrote and co-produced.