WORCESTER, Massachusetts — “Whirlwind”, a film documentary in the making about the life and career of Marshall Major Taylor, is set to release its concept trailer on November 26; which happens to be Taylor’s birthday.
This historical, groundbreaking documentary aims to explore in depth the life and times of the first African American world bicycle champion Major Taylor.
More than a hundred years ago, when bicycle races drew crowds that filled Madison Square Garden, the biggest draw of all was Major Taylor. As a superstar athlete in the most popular sport of his era, 1899 world bicycling champion Major Taylor saw his racing victories well chronicled in mainstream newspapers as well as cycling publications.
Throughout his career, Major Taylor had embodied the role carved out for him by promoters, the press, and the fans, who fed off each other’s desires for drama and dollars. “The Black Cyclone” was allowed on the starting line because of his exceptional talent, but he was constantly reminded, on and off the bike—as a Black American–of his place in the racial order. He could compete against white riders as long as he didn’t act “uppity”.
White race promoters and competitors made it clear that his elite position was not to be used as a platform to overtly demand that equality be extended to other members of his race. Taylor had to contend with a balancing act familiar to Black athletes in America before and since. The backlash against football player Colin Kaepernick taking a knee during the national anthem, as well as controversies related to NBA and WNBA player support of Black Lives Matter, attest to ongoing disputes about Black athletes who take a stand against racial injustice.
In a post-Civil War era governed by Jim Crow laws in the South and overt racism nationwide, Major Taylor managed to be the first Black champion of the world in cycling and one of the first black world champions in any sport… His fame grew not only in America but in Europe and Australia as newspapers around the world reported his triumphs. The Boston Globe labeled him “The World Beater” in a headline in August 1899.
The team plan to produce a feature documentary for national and international broadcast on the life and times of Major Taylor. The film will be a compelling combination of rare archival material, reenactments, and interviews with scholars, writers, bicycle historians and prominent athletes.
The film will be directed by independent documentary filmmaker Cyrille Vincent, and PhD. Janette Thomas Greenwood of Clark University’s History Department will serve as chief historical advisor. A panel of other humanities scholars from universities, associations and research centers around the country will serve as advisors as well.
“There is a significance in keeping Major Taylor’s story and legacy alive as American History. We need to do something and show something to people. If they see, they might understand easier.” said Cyrille Vincent, director and executive producer of the documentary. “It’s very exciting when you come in with the perspective of Major Taylor in mind. He was always optimistic and strategic about everything.”
In addition to watching the concept trailer, audiences can sign up to be ambassadors or donate to the project at https://www.worcesterwhirlwind.com/pay-it-foward-whirlwind-film-documentary.