George Taliaferro: Breaking Barriers

Posted: April 1, 2013 by tklawitt in IU Football
Tags: , , , , , , ,
George Taliaferro and his wife Honorable Judge Viola Taliaferro view an exhibit honoring their achievements.

George Taliaferro and his wife Honorable Judge Viola Taliaferro view an exhibit honoring their achievements.


George Taliaferro is the Jackie Robinson of football. His impact on the game is truly transcendent. He was the first ever African-American drafted in the National Football League, selected in the thirteenth round by the Chicago Bears in 1949.

Taliaferro led the Hoosiers to their only undefeated Big Ten Championship season in 1945, and would later go on to become a three-time All American as a running back, quarterback and punter. Taliaferro, after getting drafted, opted to play for the Los Angeles Dons of the All America Football Conference before eventually playing five seasons in the NFL. He made three consecutive Pro Bowl appearances from 1951 to 1953.

Taliaferro, a book on George with a forward by former NFL head coach Tony Dungy.

I’d argue that Taliaferro is one of the most under-appreciated heroes in sports, breaking the color barrier on pro football around the same time Jackie Robinson put on his Dodger-blue.

“The thing that I liked most about football, was hitting people,” Taliaferro said. “It allowed me to vent my frustrations with being discriminated against in the United States.”

Taliaferro often isn’t recognized as exclusively as the likes of Jackie Robinson, when discussing the impact he had on sports and the civil rights movement. What he did was bigger than sports. Despite facing a lifetime of racism, bigotry and discrimination, Taliaferro overcame, and prospered. He helped the Indiana University president end segregation in the city of Bloomington and on the Indiana campus.

Taliaferro’s impact goes beyond the realm of athletic competition. He was an American hero, and one that deserves more appreciation for his achievements. He will forever have a place in the Indiana Hall-of-Fame, and in the hearts of all those who struggled before he broke through.

Today, Taliaferro is 86 years young, and still lives happily with his wife in Bloomington.



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