Beethoven Might Have Been Black

Okay, I’m not going to go into the evidence in favor of this theory, but I find it entirely credible that Beethoven was black. The arguments against this seem to be mostly emotional responses, racist dog whistles, and ill-informed crap. Yes, most portraits of Ludwig van Beethoven show a white guy — but not all of them, especially some of the ones done when he was younger. The paintings don’t match the written descriptions of the man, which state that he had dark skin, black hair, and African features. There’s also his death mask, which, seriously, that’s the face of a black man.

We’ll never know for sure, of course, but I find it interesting. The theory is that Beethoven had West African ancestors, who made their way to Europe through the Spanish Netherlands. Less interesting are the stupid attempts to punch holes in this theory. “They didn’t say West Africans, they said Moors! Moors aren’t black! Moors are Muslim! And Spain is nowhere near the Netherlands!”

Yeah, so, historically the term Moor was used as a catch-all racist term for non-Christian and non-white people. Including, ahem, West African people, who are decidedly black and not Mediterranean or Arabic. The modern West African nations, which include Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo, are predominantly Islamic. The percentages from country to country, but… overall majority Muslim.

The Spanish Netherlands was a section of the Holy Roman Empire ruled over by a branch of the Hapsberg family. It covered parts of what’s now France, Belgium, Luxembourg, and Germany. Yeah, it was called Spanish Netherlands, but no, it was neither Spain nor the Netherlands. History is weird, and cool. Not knowing bits of history is not a valid argument against Beethoven being black.

The main problem with discussing this theory, which first appeared in 2015, is that the site making the argument no longer exists. All that’s available now are articles referring to the site, offering snippets of the evidence it presented. So any rational debunking is difficult, leaving us with people who desperately wanting it to not be true grasping at straws.

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