Black Swan Records

Black Swan Records

Black Swan Records
Black Swan Records Logo.gif
Founded 1921
Founder Harry Pace
Country of origin U.S.
Location HarlemNew YorkNew York

Black Swan Records was a United States record label founded in 1921 in HarlemNew York. It was the first widely distributed label to be owned and operated by, and marketed to, African Americans. (Broome Special Phonograph Records was the first to be owned and operated by African Americans).  The label name was revived in the 1990’s for compact disc reissues of historic jazz and blues recordings.


Label of a 1921 “Black Swan” record by Alberta Hunter.Black Swan’s parent company, Pace Phonograph Corporation, was founded in March 1921 by Harry Pace and was based in Harlem. The new production company was formed after Pace’s music publishing partnership with W.C. Handy, Pace & Handy, had dissolved. (Some historians have thought W.C. Handy had a stake in Pace’s new business, but Handy’s own words contradict this: ” …He [Harry Pace] simply chose this time to sever connection with our firm in order that he might organized Pace Phonograph Company, issuing Black Swan Records and making a serious bid for the Negro market. … With Pace went a large number of our employees. … Still more confusion and anguish grew out of the fact that people did not generally know that I had no stake in the Black Swan Record Company.”)

Popular entertainer and pioneering black recording artist Bert Williams was an early investor in Pace Phonograph. Williams also promised to record for the company once his exclusive contract with Columbia Records ended, but he died before that could occur.

Pace Phonograph Corporation was renamed Black Swan Phonograph Company in the fall of 1922. Both the record label and production company were named after 19th century opera star Elizabeth Taylor Greenfield, who was known as the Black Swan.

Noted author, activist, and academic W.E.B. Du Bois was a stockholder and member of the Board of Directors of Black Swan. Ads for Black Swan often ran in The Crisis, the magazine of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, which Du Bois edited.

Notable employees

Former employees of Pace & Handy staffed the new company: Fletcher Henderson, the recording manager, provided piano accompaniment for singers and led a small band for recording sessions. William Grant Still was named arranger and later musical director.

Notable artists recorded


(Courtesy Wikipedia)


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