Race and Football in America

Race and Football in America

The Life and Legacy of George Taliaferro
Dawn Knight
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 07/01/2019
ISBN: 978-1-68435-068-1
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As the first African American player to be drafted by the NFL and the first African American to play quarterback, George Taliaferro was a trailblazer whose athletic prowess earned him accolades throughout his football career. Instrumental in leading Indiana University to an undefeated season and undisputed Big Ten championship in 1945, Taliaferro was a star when many major universities had no black players on their rosters and others were stacking black players behind white starters. George Taliaferro would later rack up impressive statistics while playing professionally for the New York Yanks, Dallas Texans, Baltimore Colts, and Philadelphia Eagles. His athletic prowess did little to prevent him from facing segregation and discrimination on a daily basis, but his popularity as an athlete also gave him a platform. Playing professionally gave Taliaferro more opportunity to use football to fight oppression and to interact with other important trailblazers, like Joe Louis, Nat King Cole, Muhammad Ali, and Congressman John Lewis.

Race and Football in America tells Taliaferro's story and profiles the experiences of other athletes of color who were recognized for their athleticism yet oppressed for their skin color, as they fought (and continue to fight) for equal rights and opportunities. Together these stories provide an insightful portrait of race in America.

Author Bio

Dawn Knight is an English teacher at Westfield High School in Westfield, IN, where she lives on a small horse farm with her husband and three kids. Knight met Taliaferro when she took his social work class at Indiana University. Later, having heard Taliaferro's story of breaking racial barriers both on and off the football field, as a star on Indiana University's undefeated 1945 football team and as the first black man drafted by an NFL team, she knew his story had to be told.



A good, readable, and generally engaging descriptive history of an athlete who worked for social justice.



"The book's many anecdotes from Taliaferro's life are entertaining, revealing his feelings and courage while making the focus on football more approachable and personal."



Knight paints a portrait of a young man who overcame the obstacles of racism, the military draft, and the death of his father. His vehicle for climbing over obstacles was athletic prowess and inner strength.


 (Jim Baumgartner, College Football Hall of Fame (reviewing a previous edition))

"An absolutely terrific biography of a man so few have heard of, and author Dawn Knight does a fantastic job of telling us his story. George Taliaferro was an American Hero, a guy who had the courage and determination to overcome the odds to become the first African-American drafted by an NFL Team! But his story is so much more than just a football story, and Knight captures the subject matter in great detail. Most surprising, though, is how the story of George Taliaferro and his fight for equal rights, on the field and off, occurred so long ago. For many, it's a fight that still rages on today, and while Knight and Taliaferro talk about what happened in the past, you'll be scratching your head as you think about the society we live in and how many of these same issues are still relevant. Beautifully written, Race and Football in America, is a must read for any sports fan—one of the best and most in-depth sports biographies I have read."

 (Warren Rogan, host of the podcast Sports' Forgotten Heroes)

"Race and Football in America is a must read for anyone interested in race and sport. America knows the heroic story of Jackie Robinson but few know George Taliaferro. Knight helps us capture his real legacy."

 (Richard Lapchick, director of the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport and president of The Institute for Sport and Social Justice)


George Taliaferro never accepted the status quo, which is what made him such an influential force in the world of sports and in improving race relations throughout his life. Dawn Knight does a wonderful job of sharing the stories about the battles George waged—both solicited and unsolicited—on the field and off of it.


 (Tom Allen, Indiana University Football Coach)

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Table of Contents

Foreword by Delise S. O'Meally

Foreword by Bob Kravitz

Foreword by Tony Dungy



1. October 2005: Trick or Treat

2. 1944-1945: Taliaferro's Football Roots

3. 1945-1946: Adjusting to Life at Indiana University

4. 1945-1946: Indiana University Football

5. 1946-1947: Army Days

6. 1947: A Volatile Time for Professional Football

7. 1947-1949: Back at Indiana University

8. 1949-1955: Integrating Professional Football

9. 1955-Present: Life After Football

10. 1949-Present: Integration of the NFL

11. 2016-Present: The New Trailblazers