Record Companies

What was the first record company owned and operated by blacks?

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.


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