Born: 25th December 1745
Died: 10th June 1799
Birth Place: France
Known for: Classical Musician.
Bologne was one of the best musicians, fencers, and soldiers of his time.
He was colonel of the first all-Black regiment of soldiers in Europe.
He was the first known classical composer of African ancestry.
Man of talent
Joseph Bologne, the ‘Chevalier de Saint-Georges’, was a gifted Black classical musician, military officer, and fencer. Born in the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, his mother, Nanon, was an enslaved person and his father was a white French man.
He moved to France with his parents, and studied classical music as a child. He excelled at classical music, and when he grew up was considered a leading gentleman of his time because of his combined skill in music, fencing, and being a soldier.
Soldier and musician
He took part in the French Revolution and was appointed Colonel of a regiment of ‘coloured’ soldiers, the first group ever of this kind in the French army. As a fencer, he was unmatched: he once defeated his teacher in a public match on which bets were placed. But his greatest skill was his music, and he wowed French audiences with his skill. Bologne composed operas, played his violin, directed orchestras, and wrote marvellous music.
At one point, he was almost appointed as director of the Paris Opera. However, some singers from the Opera objected to the Queen, saying they could not be told what to do by a Black man. To avoid embarrassing her, Bologne withdrew his application, but he was valued by the Queen and performed for her in private.
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