The Rise and Fall of Black Swan Records


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One hundred years ago, in 1921, a man named Harry Pace started the first major Black-owned record company in the United States. He called it Black Swan Records.

In an era when few Black musicians were recorded, the company was revolutionary. It launched the careers of Ethel Waters, Fletcher Henderson, William Grant Still, Alberta Hunter and other influential artists who transformed American music.

But Black Swan’s success would be short-lived. Just a couple years after Pace founded the company, larger, wealthier, white competitors started to take an interest in the artists whose careers Pace had propelled. Then, Pace’s own life took a mysterious turn.


This episode of Radio Diaries has support from the National Endowment for the Humanities and The Lily Auchincloss Foundation.

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