Twitter users are debating if the classical German composer Ludwig van Beethoven was black after an old article resurfaced.
What We Know:
- A 2015 op-ed in The Concordian by Naomi Swanson claims that Beethoven was “very likely a black man”. She alleges that Beethoven’s father, Johann van Beethoven, was a German white man, and his mother, Maria Magdalena Keverich, was likely of Moorish descent. The Moors, a term used for Arabs and northern African Muslims, controlled territory throughout Europe for hundreds of years. Swanson says that Keverich was “born in the area that was under the direct control of the Moors”. She also cites quotes from primary sources who were close to Beethoven (alleged lovers, teachers, students, etc.) which describe him as dark skinned with “negroid traits”. All of Swanson’s sources are listed in her op-ed.
- This article resurfaced on Twitter earlier this week and people had fun with the theory. The timeline populated with memes and mashups of classical music and music videos by black artists.
— Fatima (@fatima_rreyes) June 18, 2020
- Musicologists and historians deny this theory because it relies on geographical connections rather than publicly available information on Beethoven’s genealogy. However, many are hesitant to trust academics of European music. The field, like many areas of academia, has a long history of whitewashing and suppressing the works of marginalized creators. In response to the protests about racial injustice, music schools around the world have verbally committed to amplifying black voices.
Beethoven is hailed as the master of the symphony and one of the greatest composers to ever live. Even though there is no concrete evidence that he was black, there were several other successful black composers throughout history, including Scott Joplin, Joseph Bologne, Francis Johnson, and George Bridgetower.