Black swan records

A record company that supported and sold primarily African American artists

 the logo for Black Swan Records; a record shop and label

the logo for Black Swan Records; a record shop and label

In New York in 1921, the streets were bustling with black musicians performing in nightclubs, and dance halls, making a name for blues in New York at the time. Though opportunities were limited for black artists who wished to release their music to the world. At the time most if not all record labels were owned by white people who rarely let People of Color record. In Fact, most times that Black musicians were recorded and released was towards newer artists where performance was lacking to make the Black music community look bad. 

But when entrepreneur Harry Pace caught wind of the situation he created the Black Swan Records, named after an African American opera singer Elizabeth Taylor Greenfield. He saw an opportunity from making music by Black people for Black people. His partner W.C Handy, also known as the ‘Father of Blues’ because of his very popular released blues song, led the group alongside him.

The Black Swan Records were the first Record Label only for African Americans, opening more chances for popular black blues artists to release their music officially. Their most memorable artist used the record label to create a name for themselves.

Ethel Waters was a tall thin elegant dancer with a smooth and beautiful voice. Pace invited Waters to The Black Swan records where she sang “Down Home Blues” It was immediately a hit selling over 100,000 copies. This pushed forward the Record label’s reputation in a dominantly white area of business.

Black swan records were described as, “A defiance to systematic racism and Jim Crow.” It impacted the music community encouraging more black music artists to speak up and record their music. Though white musicians still took the spotlight, Black Swan records were slowly becoming more important in the Black community.

“This was not about making money,” Rhiannon Giddens, a musician seeking to reshape the idea of Black music, said. “This is about two generations out of slavery, that we are taking up our rightful mantle and uplifting the race.”

Though all good things must come to an end, with an increasing amount of pressure on Black swan records and the decrease of white record labels only recording white artists, it quickly fell out of business calling bankruptcy only three years later in 1921.

Though the Record label was no longer in business the impact it made remained. Uplifting the black community and a fight against the racism that remained in the music business. Though it only lasted 3 years, its name remains an important part of African American history.