After debuting his musical for audiences to stream around the world, Lin-Manuel Miranda responded to slavery criticisms of Hamilton on Disney+ this weekend. The hit Broadway musical—which tells the story of American Founding Father, Alexander Hamilton—was met with renewed concern over its treatment of issues of slavery and settler colonialism in Native American territory. Miranda, the 40-year-old star and creator of the show, made himself available to listen and discuss.
Many writers, critics, and everyday viewers took to social media over the Fourth of July weekend to air their grievances with the famous musical, which finally launched for streaming on Disney+ on July 3. The conversations largely included call-outs over the show’s historical inaccuracies, as well as reflections on its context amid the ongoing Black Lives Matter movement. Many pointed out the irony of America’s Founding Fathers being cast as men of color in Hamilton with little mention of their characters’ real stance on slavery at the time. Those who have seen the musical would remember that while it suggests Hamilton’s interest in the abolition of slavery, it was not central to the events of the musical. Turns out, that interest wasn’t even the case in real life.
While it’s unclear whether Alexander Hamilton ever enslaved people or not (there is conflicting evidence on the matter), it is clear that he wasn’t entirely sold on the idea of total abolition. Instead, according to the New York Times, Hamilton supported “manumission,” which asked for the voluntary release of people by those who enslaved them—hence the line in the show about him and his buddies being “revolutionary manumission abolitionists,” emphasis on manumission. Historian and Harvard University professor, Annette Gordon-Reed, later tweeted a clarification about Hamilton’s stance during the #HATM watch party. “OK, Hamilton did not write pamphlets against slavery with Laurens,” she wrote, adding: “I hate to be that historian.”
Miranda was responsive to the “valid” criticisms of his musical. By July 6, the leading man replied to writer Tracy Clayton’s tweet that read: “I really like that this conversation is happening. Hamilton the play and the movie were given to us in two different worlds & our willingness to interrogate things in this way feels like a clear sign of change.”
“Appreciate you so much,” Manuel wrote in response. “All the criticisms are valid. The sheer tonnage of complexities & failings of these people I couldn’t get. Or wrestled with but cut. I took 6 years and fit as much as I could in a 2.5 hour musical. Did my best. It’s all fair game.”
As long as Manuel is on board for the conversation, we’re happy. May the next Hamilton—whatever that looks like—handle these issues even better than the last.
Hamilton is available to stream on Disney+.
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