Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges
Date Of Birth:
25 December 1745
Date Of Death:
12 June 1799
Place Of Birth:
Best Known As:
The 18th century composer called "The Black Mozart"
Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges was a celebrated swordsman and composer in the era of the French Revolution who has been called “The Black Mozart.” Possibly the first European composer of African descent, his father was a French plantation owner in Guadeloupe and his mother was a slave from Senegal. Bologne was sent to France in 1753 for his education, and by the time he was a teenager he was serving in the king’s guard and studying music as well as fencing. He became a chevalier (knight) and took the name of his father’s estate. Initially famous for his fencing, Chevalier de Saint-Georges became even more famous for his musicianship, performing with and then leading Le Concert Olympique, a Paris orchestra. A solo violinist and composer of quartets, concertos and symphonies, Saint-Georges’s musical career seems to have lasted from the mid-1770s until about 1785. A few years later, the French Revolution added another chapter to Saint-Georges’s already colorful life, when he served as a colonel in the Légion St.-Georges (1792), an all-Black regiment in defense of the French First Republic (and originally called the Free American Horse Legion). Jailed for nearly a year in 1793 because of political infighting, he ended up returning to Paris in 1797 to lead a new orchestra. He died in 1799, reportedly of gangrene.
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