Ludwig Van Beethoven as depicted in an 1820 painting by Joseph Karl Stieler. Some have speculated the composer had African blood. Credit: Public domain

The month of February has several titles, which include Black History Month, Human Relations Month, LGBT History Month, International Month of Black Women in the Arts, and Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month.

Some of the celebratory days in the first part of February are:

  • Feb. 1 – National Freedom Day
  • Feb. 2 – Groundhog Day
  • Feb. 4 – Rosa Parks’ Birthday
  • Feb. 11 – International Day of Women and Girls In Science
  • Feb. 12 – Abraham Lincoln’s Birthday
  • Feb. 14 – Valentine’s Day

I was recently given a CD of concertos performed by Israeli American virtuoso violinist Itzhak Perlman (1945- ). I love it and have played it every day. One of the concertos was written by Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827), which made my old brain recall playing (at) his Moonlight Sonata when I was a teenager.

Since Black History Month was approaching, I decided to look up Beethoven, who was rumored to have African blood.

I found no cited proof that Beethoven actually had African blood. Some speculations were based on his appearance, which was described as “swarthy complexion, broad nose and coarse black hair.” (Essay from a professor in the Department of Fine Arts at the University of Alberta in Canada.)

Others felt that his music sounded Black with its “rhythmic complexity, specifically its syncopation.”

Without any familial/genetic proof, I tend to agree with those who feel that Beethoven was thought to be part African because of his close friendship with the virtuoso violinist George Bridgetower (British; 1778-1860), who was of mixed African descent.

I enjoy Beethoven’s music no matter what he was/is deemed to be. I enjoy Perlman’s violin virtuosity no matter what he is.

There’s music in the air
It makes the sorrow go
Let the music take you there
Far from the world you know. …”
-Sung by Letta Mbulu (1942 – ; South African)

Reluctantly, I want to touch on the killing of Tyre Nichols, a Black man, by five phenotypically Black police officers in Tennessee. In addition to the homicide making me angry and ashamed, it is so painful. Music has only temporarily decreased my pain. I cannot imagine how all the families involved in this heinous act are coping.

During the March on Washington in 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said: “We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. … We will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

I will expand Dr. King’s statement to say: “… as long as anyone is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality.”


Peggy Tarr

Peggy Tarr has been a columnist for the Evanston RoundTable since its founding in 1998. Born in Bruce Springsteen's hometown of Freehold, New Jersey, she graduated from Rutgers University with a degree...

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  1. Peggy,
    Thank you once again for your calendar of events, for reminders that music an soothe the soul but it does not take away the tragedy of another black life needlessly taken. The nature of such violence and anger expressed by the officers is incompreshensible and not forgiveable.