(Original text is here: http://open.salon.com/blog/ronp01/2009/09/27/the_african_heritage_of_ludwig_van_beethoven)
In the 15th and 16th century, written history underwent a massive campaign of misinformation and deception. With the European slave trade in full swing, Africans were transported to various parts of the world and were stripped of every aspect of their humanity, and in most of western civilization, were no longer considered human. This triggered a wholesale interpretation of history that methodically excluded Africans from any respectful mention, other than a legacy of slavery. This can result in being taught, or socialized, from one perspective. In this instance, historical information tends to flow strictly from a European perspective.
In an age where history is seriously being rewritten, new information is coming forth that is shocking intellectual sensitivities. What was once considered written in stone is now melting away with the discovery of facts that heretofore have been hidden or omitted; things so different that they are generally classified as controversial or unusual.
That brings us to the topic of this post; the true identity of Ludwig van Beethoven, long considered Europe’s greatest classical music composer. Said directly, Beethoven was a black man. Specifically, his mother was a Moor, that group of Muslim Northern Africans who conquered parts of Europe–making Spain their capital–for some 800 years.
In order to make such a substantial statement, presentation of verifiable evidence is compulsory. Let’s start with what some of Beethoven’s contemporaries and biographers say about his brown complexion.:
(Louis Letronne, Beethoven, 1814, pencil drawing.)
” Frederick Hertz, German anthropologist, used these terms to describe him: “Negroid traits, dark skin, flat, thick nose.”
Emil Ludwig, in his book “Beethoven,” says: “His face reveals no trace of the German. He was so dark that people dubbed him Spagnol [dark-skinned].”
Fanny Giannatasio del Rio, in her book “An Unrequited Love: An Episode in the Life of Beethoven,” wrote “His somewhat flat broad nose and rather wide mouth, his small piercing eyes and swarthy [dark] complexion, pockmarked into the bargain, gave him a strong resemblance to a mulatto.”
Beethoven’s death mask: profile and full face
C. Czerny stated, “His beard–he had not shaved for several days–made the lower part of his already brown face still darker.”
Following are one word descriptions of Beethoven from various writers: Grillparzer, “dark”; Bettina von Armin, “brown”; Schindler, “red and brown”; Rellstab, “brownish”; Gelinek, “short, dark.”
Newsweek, in its Sept. 23, 1991 issue stated, “Afrocentrism ranges over the whole panorama of human history, coloring in the faces: from Australopithecus to the inventors of mathematics to the great Negro composer Beethoven.”
Of course, in the world of scholarship there are those who take an opposite view. In the book The Changing Image of Beethoven by Alessandra Comini, an array of arguments are presented. Donald W. MacArdle, in a 1949 Musical Quarterly article came to the conclusion that there was “no Spanish, no Belgian, no Dutch, no African” in Beethoven’s genealogy. Dominque-Rene de Lerma, the great musical bibliologist, came to the same conclusion.
Included in this discussion is a reference made of Beethoven’s teacher, Andre de Hevesy, in his book, Beethoven The Man. “Everyone knows the incident at Kismarton, or Eisenstadt, the residence of Prince Esterhazy, on his birthday. In the middle of the first allegro of Haydn’s symphony, His Highness asked the name of the author. He was brought forward.
“‘What!’ exclaimed the Prince, ‘the music is by the blackamoor (a black Moor). Well, my fine blackamoor, henceforth thou art in my service.’
“‘What is thy name?’
In Alexander Thayer’s Life of Beethoven, vol.1, p. 134, the author states, “there is none of that obscurity which exalts one to write history as he would have it and not as it really was. The facts are too patent.” On this same page, he states that the German composer Franz Josef Haydn was referred to as a “Moor” by Prince Esterhazy, and Beethoven had “even more of the Moor in his looks.” On p. 72, a Beethoven contemporary, Gottfried Fischer, describes him as round-nosed and of dark complexion. Also, he was called “der Spagnol” (the Spaniard).
Other “patent” sources, of which there are many, include, but are not limited to, Beethoven by Maynard Solomon, p.78. He is described as having “thick, bristly coal-black hair” (in today’s parlance, we proudly call it “kinky”) and a “ruddy-complexioned face.” In Beethoven: His Life and Times by Artes Orga, p.72, Beethoven’s pupil, Carl Czerny of the “School of Velocity” fame, recalls that Beethoven’s “coal-black hair, cut a la Titus, stood up around his head [sounds almost like an Afro]. His black beard…darkened the lower part of his dark-complexioned face.”