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Alexander Hamilton and Broadway Positively Changing the Way that Americans View U.S. History

 

     The Broadway hit Hamilton, written by Lin-Manuel Miranda and based upon the 2004 biography by Ron Chernow, is beginning to change the way that America views its own history. The play opened in August 2015 in New York and has received dozens upon dozens of accolade reviews, media headlines, and press time because of its unique, contemporary method of delivering a history lesson. Miranda, who is a veteran to Broadway and the theatre, wrote Hamilton as a hip-hop inspired life story of Alexander Hamilton and his varying relationships with Elizabeth Schuyler, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, the Marquis de Lafayette, Aaron Burr, and many other founding figures during the American struggle for independence and early republic government. The play has a cast of mostly African American and Latino actors: Miranda said that the “cast looks like America looks now” (Piepenburg 2016) which is sparking conversation and causing some audience members to reconsider American history topics in a new light.

     This new adaptation of Chernow’s book is making the general public stand up and take notice in an amazing way. Coupled with enthusiastic critical acclaim, box office reservations have been booked for months ahead of time (Ezovski 2016). Teachers are using the play to depict the complexity of life in the eighteenth century to their students. The students are understanding the material on a “deeper level” and now seeing Hamilton and his peers as “human, and afflicted with vices along with their virtues: pride, arrogance, anger, envy, lust and greed” (Flanagan 2016). Michelle Obama, the First Lady, said that Hamilton was the “best piece of art in any form that I have ever seen in my life,” after Miranda and several cast members performed at the White House for President and Mrs. Obama (Piepenburg 2016). Hamilton’s life during the Revolutionary War until his untimely death at the age of forty-nine, including a full spectrum of interactions and historical perspective, would be difficult to squeeze into forty-six songs and almost three hours of stage time; therefore, some facts and relationships were condensed for artistic license. Chernow was brought in as a biographical consultant to maintain historical accuracy and stated that Hamilton (the play) was a “biographer's wish-fulfillment fantasy” (Catton 2015).

     Visitors and SAR members should use this article as an introductory springboard for further research into the topic. Please peruse and review the external links provided below for a fuller understanding of the Broadway musical and soundtrack as well as the historical figure and Revolutionary founder who was Alexander Hamilton. Use the resources below to revitalize your own or others' interest in American history and inspire civic engagement as it stands today.

 

Alexander Hamilton in History:

Ron Chernow's Alexander Hamilton

http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/292945/alexander-hamilton-by-ron-chernow/9780143034759

Biography.com - "Alexander Hamilton"

http://www.biography.com/people/alexander-hamilton-9326481

The History Channel - "Five Things You Didn't Know About Alexander Hamilton"

http://www.history.com/news/5-things-you-didnt-know-about-alexander-hamilton

Bill of Rights Institute - "Alexander Hamilton"

http://www.billofrightsinstitute.org/educate/educator-resources/founders/alexander-hamilton/

ConstitutionFacts.com - "The Federalist Papers"

https://www.constitutionfacts.com/us-articles-of-confederation/the-federalist-papers/

 

Alexander Hamilton on Broadway:

Hamilton: An American Musical

http://www.hamiltonbroadway.com/

Hamilton Original Broadway Cast Recording on Spotify (Please note that listener discretion is advised: the Hamilton soundtrack on the Spotify playlist is labeled with a parental advisory due to some tracks containing explicit lyrics and therefore may not be suitable for some students and community audiences.)

https://play.spotify.com/album/1kCHru7uhxBUdzkm4gzRQc?play=true&utm_source=open.spotify.com&utm_medium=open

Playbill - Read critics' reviews for Hamilton on Broadway

http://www.playbill.com/article/the-verdict-read-critics-reviews-for-hamilton-on-broadway-com-356498

The Washington Post - 'Hamilton': Making ecstatic history

https://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/theater_dance/hamilton-making-ecstatic-history/2015/08/06/6bc85fb4-3b72-11e5-8e98-115a3cf7d7ae_story.html

The L.A. Times - 'Hamilton's' revolutionary power is in its hip-hop musical numbers

http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/arts/la-ca-cm-hamilton-hip-hop-notebook-20151031-column.html

 

 

Works Cited:

Catton, P. (2015). 'Hamilton' biographer is making history on Broadway. Retrieved on 3 May 2016 from http://www.wsj.com/articles/hamilton-biographer-is-making-history-on-broadway-1451089483#:f8gknbZYokL6rA

Ezovski, M. (2016). Take a look at the 2015-2016 Tony-nominated musicals. Retrieved on 3 May 2016 from http://www.playbill.com/article/broadway-box-office-analysis-two-new-shows-make-a-splash-and-audiences-flock-to-revisit-old-times-com-364542

Flanagan, L. (2016). How teachers are using 'Hamilton' the musical in the classroom. Retrieved on 3 May 2016 from http://ww2.kqed.org/mindshift/2016/03/14/how-teachers-are-using-hamilton-the-musical-in-the-classroom/

Piepenburg, E. (2016). Why 'Hamilton' has heat. Retrieved on 3 May 2016 from http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2015/08/06/theater/20150806-hamilton-broadway.html?_r=0