New: The Vanishing of Harry Pace

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Radiolab announced a new series The Vanishing of Harry Pace, created by the team behind Dolly Parton’s America — Jad Abumrad and Shima Oliaee that examines the mysterious story of the man who founded Black Swan Records and disappeared.

Black Swan Records owned by Harry Pace was the first Black-owned record label in American history. Listen to the trailer HERE. The series debuts Thursday, June 17 in the Radiolab podcast feed.

The series features over 40 interviews (in new and archival recordings) with family members, musicians, historians, writers and musicologists and was inspired by Paul Slade’s Black Swan Blues: The hard rise and brutal fall of America’s first Black-owned record label. This story is presented in collaboration with Joe Richman and Nellie Giles at Radio Diaries.

Editorial Advisor Kiese Laymon said, “The story of Harry Pace appears to have all the trappings of American spectacle, yet I’m not sure I’ve heard or experienced a story, or life, that requires checking the roots and consequences of all of our Americanisms. The talented Mr. Ripley and Don Draper are junior varsity players at character revision compared to Harry Pace.”

Shima Oliaee said, “It’s heartbreaking that the life of this maverick who collaborated with other civil rights pioneers to fight for Black self-determination and economic liberation on so many fronts has been lost for generations. His story raises just as many questions as it delivers answers, about the toll of the fight, the personal stakes and sacrifices, and the cost of being deprived of one’s family and collective history. Harry Pace belongs in every account of American music and civil rights history. ”

Jad Abumrad said, “This is a story about how categories ultimately fail us. Harry is such a complicated guy. He slips between binaries and doesn’t fit the neat boxes we check on the census. At a time when so many of us are questioning identities and rethinking the history that got us here, this story is both an important piece of history and a very contemporary story.”

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