With Hamilton reaching a much wider audience thanks to a filmed stage production premiering on Disney+ last week, debate about creator Lin-Manuel Miranda’s portrayal of Alexander Hamilton and his contemporaries is raging again. The show presents Hamilton as an orphaned immigrant whose stubborn will and impassioned commitment to his ideals helped him infiltrate the American aristocracy and play a pivotal role in setting up the United States government. This narrative, plus Miranda’s decision to cast minorities in most of the key roles, contributed to Hamilton being widely hailed as a subversive take on American history upon its debut in 2015. Critics have argued that despite his underdog-made-good storyline, Hamilton was no progressive hero, and that the play itself is only superficially radical. Another recurring critique of Miranda’s show is that it does not address the issue of slavery even though many key characters — including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Hamilton’s father-in-law Philip Schuyler — owned slaves.
Miranda addressed that part of the discourse earlier this week by responding to relatively supportive tweets from writer and podcast host Tracy Clayton, the former Buzzfeed employee who now hosts Netflix’s Strong Black Legends podcast. “i totally get the frustration about it being a play about slaveholders that is not about slavery. ive felt that in lots of things i watch, but i flex the same muscle i use when i listen to hip hop as a black woman. we enjoy problematic things all the time,” Clayton wrote. She continued, “after reading the critiques i would have appreciated more context about hamilton & slavery. but to lump it in with statues of columbus and robert e lee denies this conversation the nuance it deserves & we’re capable of giving it that.”
“All the criticisms are valid,” Miranda replied. “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.” Check out their interaction below.