In 1921 the Pace Phonograph Company, which used the Black Swan label, was the first record company owned and operated by a black. It was established in January 1921 by Henry Pace (1897–1943), who had been owner of a music publishing company with W. C. Handy. Two former workers for the Pace-Handy Company joined him: Fletcher Henderson (1897–1952) as a recording manager and William Grant Still (1895–1978) as an arranger. In spring 1921 Ethel Waters (1896–1977) recorded the company’s first hit, “Down Home Blues/Oh, Daddy.” During its first six months the company reportedly sold more than half a million records. The company went broke in 1923, and was sold to Paramount Records the following year.
A vaudeville comedian, Bert Williams was one of the most popular black entertainers of the early twentieth century and a best-selling recording artist.