Podcast Review-- The Vanishing of Harry Pace, Radiolab
This 6-part series by the Radiolab team explores the fascinating story of pioneering African-American music label founder, Harry Pace. His life story could fill several volumes, as he "launched the career of Ethel Waters, inadvertently invented the term rock n roll, played an important role in W.C. Handy becoming 'Father of the Blues,' inspired Ebony and Jet magazines, and helped desegregate the South Side of Chicago in an epic Supreme Court battle.”
The first two episodes detail his amazing story, diving deep into the history of early American record companies and how musical genres were marketed differently to black and white audiences. Harry Pace's unlikely rise as founder of Black Swan Records will bring to mind the story of Berry Gordy, Jr. and his Motown Records in the 1960s. Pace then became a lawyer, worked with WEB Du Bois, and was involved in several high-level court cases in an attempt to desegregate the South Side of Chicago.
From there, the story becomes more mysterious as we meet Pace’s grandchildren who never knew about his achievements, but even more surprising, that their family was African-American. It seems that later in his life, Harry Pace and his family began to “pass” as white. The producers explore the possible reasons for this change in his self-identity, tying it in to the civil rights movement and the politics of the era.
Three bonus episodes dive deeper into blues singer Ethel Waters, lyric tenor Roland Hayes, and “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” the Black national anthem.
Reviewed by Dan Brame, Member of the CARE Committee, ACT Team