Clarence Bernard Henry

Clarence Bernard Henry is currently the director of The Henry Center for Multicultural Education & Global Research, a non-profit organization that is located in New York City. He received a Ph.D. in Ethnomusicology from the University of California, Los Angeles. Henry is also the author of the book, Let’s Make Some Noise: Axé and the African Roots of Brazilian Popular Music (2008, University Press of Mississippi).



"The Sounds of 'Black Swan,' A New York City Icon in Early Recording History"

This paper examines the musical, historical, cultural, and social significance of Black Swan Phonograph Company, the first African American owned company that was founded in Harlem-New York City in 1921 by Harry Pace. The paper will include discussions and present audio examples of some of the early recordings that greatly demonstrate how Black Swan gave African American music a tangible presence in New York City during a time in American history when many African American musicians/artists were very limited in obtaining recording contract opportunities with major white-owned recording companies.

This paper will not only examine the intricacies of Black Swan as a viable commercial outlet for African American popular music, but the paper will also include a discussion of the company’s diverse recording repertoire that consisted of classical music, spirituals, jazz, blues, and popular songs performed by an array of musicians such as Ethel Waters, Fletcher Henderson, Alberta Hunter, Mamie Smith, and many others.

This paper will also examine the influence of Black Swan within the environs of urban New York City, at the advent of the Harlem Renaissance, with an impressive Board of Directors that included the legendary author, activist, and academic, W.E.B. Du Bois, the famous African American entertainer Bert Williams, and others. The paper will conclude with comments about Black Swan and its role in paving the way for other prominent African American entrepreneurships in the popular music recording industry such as Barry Gordy’s Motown Records and Quincy Jones’ Qwest Records.

My Speakers Sessions

Saturday, March 24

2:15pm EDT