It’s no secret that history has been whitewashed over the years. We’ve been misinformed on where most of our social culture comes from and, in the process, misrepresented a large group of people who have largely contributed to the culture. With this, we slowly start to find out that some well-known people aren’t exactly who we’ve been taught they are.
Ludwig van Beethoven was a classical music composer in the late 1700s. Having a German nationality, social media started to question what he looked like as some discussions described Beethoven as coming from Moors descent. Moors were dark-skinned Muslims from North Africa who migrated to the Spanish Netherlands. Beethoven’s mother is reported to have been born in an area heavily populated with Moors and could’ve been Moorish herself. Other descriptions of Beethoven from people he was close with included “wide, thick-lipped mouth, thick nose,” “coal-black hair that stood up around his head,” and “his face revealed no trace of the German.”
Specifically, Twitter, took the idea of Beethoven being Black and ran with it. Memes, interpretations, and videos were made celebrating Beethoven being Black regardless of they were right or wrong.
Betty Boop was a cartoon made by Max Fleischer and aired in the 1930s. Plenty of discussions have went into Betty Boop’s character and where the inspiration came from. Although most credit goes to singer and actress Helen Kane, it’s been confirmed that Baby Esther, a Black jazz singer from Harlem, was the initial inspiration for the cartoon. Esther was known for her ‘baby’ voice as she started her career at a young age and much of Kane’s material came from Esther.
The cartoon was supposed to be a cartoon parody of Kane because Fleischer didn’t know of the original source of Kane’s claim to fame. Emerging media in the 1930s and 1940s heavily relied on talent from Black and brown people only for their talents to be “reinvented” or serve as “inspiration.”
So it seems as though Black people have been right to want a Black Santa for their children to see during Christmas time. The history of the monk St. Nicholas goes back to 280 A.D. in modern-day Turkey. St. Nicholas was known for being kind to children and helping the poor and sick and over time, was the topic of many legends and fables. He died on December 6, 343 and many deemed that date as a lucky day for large purchases and marriages.
During the Renaissance and Protestant Reformation, St. Nicholas became a well-known saint and held a positive reputation in Holland, where the translation of his name became Sinter Klaas. It wasn’t until the 1800s in New York when more translations of St. Nicholas were made to fit into their modern beliefs. By the 1830s, “Shopping Mall Santas” were popular and the visual representation of Santa Claus changed to meet societal standards and make children excited for Christmas.
Alexandre Dumas was a French author known for “The Three Musketeers” and “The Count at Monte Cristo.” His father was a French nobleman and equivalent to a General Commissioner in their colony. His mother was a slave of Afro-Caribbean descent. Dumas himself was born in St. Domingue, now known as Haiti.
Dumas’ work helped propel the 19th-century theater world as his books and many variations of his stories were adapted into films from 1928 to early 2000s.
Many argue whether Meghan Markle is the first Black woman to live within the royal family, but the wife of King George III and the great-great-grandmother of Queen Elizabeth also comes from African descent. Historians say Queen Charlotte descended from a Black sector of the Portuguese royal family as one of her grandfather’s concubines were of Moorish descent.
Although her Black lineage is vague, Queen Charlotte is reported to be Britain’s first biracial royal.
Black people have been exploited for their talents for hundreds of years. With the advancement of society and a system built against Black and brown people, it’s easy to see why much of Black history has fallen through the cracks. As we continue to do our research and learn the truth, it’s important to pass it down to others and do what we can to make sure history isn’t distorted to fit a comfortable narrative.