Fast forward to the 1940s: the Taliaferro’s son, George, was clearly a standout on the football field for Gary Roosevelt High School in Gary, Ind., but up until his senior year, three of the state’s all-Black high schools — Gary Roosevelt, Crispus Attucks in Indianapolis and Lincoln High School in Evansville — weren’t allowed to participate in Indiana High School Athletic Association-sanctioned competitions. Instead, his team was forced to travel all around the Midwest just to get its games in.
George Taliaferro would go on to star in football at Indiana University, where he wasn’t allowed to live in the dorms, eat in school cafeterias or swim in the pool. If Taliaferro wanted to go to the movies in Bloomington, Ind., he had to wait for the weekends and sit only in the balcony.
In 1946, after completing the first semester of his freshman year at Indiana, Taliaferro was stunned to learn he had been drafted into the U.S. Army. Sixty-five of his fellow recruits were transported to Fort Benjamin Harrison in a bus; Taliaferro was taken separately to Indianapolis in a military utility truck.
Early in life, Taliaferro was reminded constantly of the racist and discriminatory rules, regulations and attitudes that so negatively affected him and those who looked like him across the U.S. Yet, somehow, with all the odds stacked against him, George Taliaferro was able to overcome all of it, eventually becoming a trailblazing figure as the first Black player ever drafted by a National Football League team.
As Colts.com continues its celebration of Black History Month, we take a look back at the life and career of Taliaferro, whose best professional season came as a Pro Bowler with the expansion Baltimore Colts in 1953. Taliaferro, who died in 2018 at the age of 91, left behind quite the legacy of a man who not only rose up against racism and hatred for a decorated career as a professional athlete, but spent the last several decades of his life helping others in innumerable ways.