Harry Pace & Black Swan Records: The Story of The First Black Record Label Owner (Video)

Harry Pace was born on January 6th, 1884, in Covington, Georgia. After graduating from Atlanta University, he moved to Memphis where he worked several odd jobs. In 1903, he launched a printing business with his mentor W.E.B. Du Bois. 

Within two years, the duo collaborated to publish the magazine The Moon Illustrated Weekly. Although their business venture only lasted a few years, Pace had already formed an entrepreneurial spirit and was ready to take on the next endeavor head on. 

In 1912, he met musician, W.C. Handy. The two men instantly became friends and began writing songs. Collectively, they relocated to New York and formed Pace & Handy music company working with composers like William Grant Sill and Fletcher Henderson. Pace and Handy produced sheet music that was sold to white-owned record companies. 

In 1921, the relationship with music partner W.C. Handy began running its course. He decided to try something different, establishing Pace Phonograph Corporation and the Black Swan record label. In the first year of business, the company made an estimated $100.000. 

The following year Mr. Pace bought a building to house the businesses as well as hired regional managers in all the major cities in the country. Black Swan records were known for producing what was called “race records” which simply meant, music by a black artist. 

Unfortunately for Pace, the rest of the music industry began to recruit their own crop of black talent to promote records. By 1923, Pace had to close the doors of Black Swan Records. Record companies with more resources and the ability to produce records at a more reduced price became more appealing to a new artist. 

However, all of us can learn from Harry Pace. He was a fearless businessman who empowered himself, as well as everybody around him. The story of his life and accomplishments can be used as inspiration for generations to come.











Harry Pace (1884-1943)


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