Does it matter if Beethoven is black? – San Diego Reader


The value of Beethoven is not his Germanity or his African DNA.

There are a multitude of stories currently presenting the idea that Beethoven was black. The claim is that he had a Moorish background through his mother’s side.

His mother’s family came from Flanders which was briefly controlled by Spain. Verdi’s Don Carlo takes place during this time. Since Spain was previously controlled by Moors, this means Beethoven, with his swarthy complexion must be of Moorish descent. The genealogy goes Africa to Moorish, to Spain, to Flanders, to Bonn (Germany), to Beethoven.

Being Moorish refers to any Muslim living in Europe, North Africa, or the Middle East during the Middle Ages. The Moorish culture was superior to European culture in science, mathematics, civic engineering, and astronomy.

At this time, Moors were in control of Naples and Sicily so maybe Beethoven is Italian. Spain was dominated by the Moors from the 8th to 13th Centuries. The capital city of Moorish Spain, Cordova, was perhaps the greatest city in the world during the 10th and 11th centuries. Maybe Beethoven is Spanish?

After doing a little more digging I came across an article from 2013 that explains that the Beethoven being African theory goes back to at least 1915.

I have no problem at all conceding that Beethoven was black, Spanish, Italian, and Moorish when it comes to his genome.

Beethoven was a product of the Enlightenment and the ideals of equality and education. The ideals of the Enlightenment are summarized well by Beethoven himself, “Then let us all do what is right, strive with all our might toward the unattainable, develop as fully as we can the gifts God has given us, and never stop learning.”

The value of Beethoven is not his Germanity or his African DNA or his height or weight. None of that matters.

What matters is that Beethoven is Beethoven.

The conversation must stay focused on what is essential. What is essential in our current cultural context? The same things that were essential in Beethoven’s cultural context.

Beethoven made it quite clear when he said, “In the world of art, as in the whole of creation, freedom and progress are the main objectives.”