A term referring to music recordings created by and marketed to black consumers and clubs from the 1920s through the 1950s.
The concept of race records was created when the early record company owners began to tap the record buying market in predominantly black communities in the 1920s. The impetus for this movement was the huge sales of Mamie Smith's recording of Crazy Blues in 1920.
A race record label was often an offshoot of an existing record company and focused only on black customers. The product consisted of early jazz, blues, and gospel artists that apparently had less appeal to white consumers.
The race records idea began to fade in the late 1940s as young white kids began to discover (mostly on radio) black artists they didn't normally hear on white stations. Even though many early rock and roll songs were covered by white artists like Pat Boone, kids began searching out the superior original versions, which eventually led to the success of Little Richard, Chuck Berry, and Joe Turner.
Historian Dirk Allman provides more detail about this segment of Americana at http://www.carolina.rr.com/features/racerecords/default.asp.