Co-workers in the Kingdom of Culture, by Davis Suisman


David Suisman's article on Black Swan Records, the first major black-owned record company, raises provocative issues about music, racial and cultural uplift, economic development, and the relationship between art and business. The company existed for only a few years, but in its short history it challenged prevailing ideas about the economic and social significance of "black" music. This installment of "Teaching the JAH" offers students the opportunity to investigate those issues in a range of primary sources. In both the article and the exercises, Suisman presents music and sound as historical sources that need to be understood not just in aesthetic or cultural terms but also in their sociopolitical context. Using sound recordings, sheet music, newspaper advertisements, and magazine articles, these exercises invite you to dig deeply into the questions the Black Swan story raises.

Sections Guide

You may use the "Sections" menu on the upper right side of each page to navigate through this installment. Provided below is a summary of each section in this installment.


The fulltext of the article as it appeared in the March 2004 issue of the Journal of American History.

Teaching the Article

The author's comments about using his article in the classroom. This installment includes 4 exercises:

Primary Sources

A set of primary source documents, recordings and images selected for use in teaching this article. This installment features Black Swan recordings and advertisements.

Further Reading

A bibliography of related secondary sources recommended by the author.


A list of links to related Web sites.