Twitter Loves The Theory That Beethoven Was Black (27 Memes)

Beethoven was so famous that even centuries later people know him by just his last name. You can have no interest in any kind of music whatsoever, and you’ve still probably heard Symphony No. 9 in half a dozen movies. Yes, his music was so popular he just had to number his symphonies and people knew what they were. So it would be very cool if it turned out one of the world’s most famous composers, perhaps THE most famous composer, were actually Black, right? Yeah, I’d find that very interesting.

And it’s not a new idea. People have been circulating the theory that Beethoven is Black off and on for years, mainly based on descriptions of his appearance as “dark” and “swarthy,” and descriptions of his facial features that might be interpreted as descriptions of a Black man’s face.

It’s popping up again now, Know Your Meme reports, because Twitter started sharing a post on a defunct website called the Concordian about Beethoven’s heritage.

The theory is that his parents came from areas of the country that were at some point under Moorish rule. The Moors were a dark-skinned group of Muslim people who came from North Africa and took over parts of Spain. It’s impossible to say whether or not his parents were directly related to any Moorish people, and by the time Beethoven was born, the Moors hadn’t been the dominant group in their birthplaces for over 300 years. Describing a white person as “swarthy” was also a relatively common thing to do if they were remotely dark in skin tone or hair. Basically, the information is inconclusive and will remain so. 

That hasn’t stopped people from running with it, and while many are delighted just to celebrate or joke about Beethoven being Black, a few historians and musicologists are taking this trending opportunity to talk about actual Black composers of Beethoven’s era and ask an important question: why don’t we know more about them?

And that’s a good question. Much more interesting than trying to argue Beethoven was white, if any really wound up racists were planning on spending their day doing that.

Twitter remains undefeated.