The conclusion of my 3-part post on how the Hamilton musical has changed the narratives and bringing diversity to Broadway. This last piece of the puzzle is how Hamilton has impacted me. I have always had a love of history, yet growing up I struggled with the narratives I was given. I couldn’t find myself within the pages; the people building, defending, and sustaining our nation were far from me.
It wasn’t until I went to a Civil War Reenactment where I was introduced to ‘women’s’ roles in shaping our nation. Since that moment, I have constantly been in search of discovering, highlighting, and researching women’s roles in history. It is in this vein that makes Hamilton such a remarkable thing for me. It is another reason I find art, in all of its expressions, as essential as any academic endeavor. Leslie Odom Jr, the actor portraying Aaron Burr states, “The Power of Art, the power of what we do, can change people’s minds. If it can change your mind, it can change your actions, because you think hopefully before you act.”
Lin-Manuel Miranda could have merely written a play about the founding fathers like every other history book, but he didn’t. One of the main story lines throughout the play is the relationship of the Schuyler Sisters; their relationship as sisters and the relationships they each had with Hamilton. Their dynamic storyline made me go out and research their lives, and what I found was remarkable. Angelica Schuyler Church was the first born daughter of General and politician Philip Schuyler. She was known for her incredible mind and her connections to the ‘big’ players in the American Revolution. The musical sets her up by stating her position, “I’m a girl in a world in which my only job is to marry rich. My father has no sons, so I’m the one who has to social climb for one. I’m the oldest, the wittiest…” (Satisfied) Angelica, finding her intelligent equal and soul mate in Alexander, sacrifices her love to introduce him to her sister Eliza. A beautiful line from the play sings, “I know my sister, like I know my own mind. You will never find anyone as trusting or as kind. I love my sister more than anything in this life. I will choose her happiness over mine every time.”(The Reynolds Pamphlet) Eliza would marry Hamilton and become his champion but like Angelica, Eliza was not solely defined by her connections with men. Renee Elise Goldsberry, the actress who plays Angelica states,
I am proud of the impact of the women on the history of our country. The beauty of the biography by Ron Chernow and the beauty of the work that Lin has done in Alexander Hamilton in really celebrating the women and their impact on the men, and also on history, and the love they had for each other.”
Eliza Hamilton would have 8 children with Hamilton, endure the scandal of Hamilton’s torrid affair, and live to 97. After Hamilton’s death she became active in ensuring Hamilton’s memory by organizing his writings, one of which shows his authorship of George Washington’s Farewell Address. Her most important contribution was establishing the first private orphanage in New York City. Her endeavors can still be seen as a Social Services Organization helping families in NYC today. She helped to raise funds for the building of the Washington Monument. Her role in shaping the nation is one of the lasting things you hear about in the Hamilton Musical. Even this year’s Tony Awards ended with a performance of the Schuyler Sisters.
Reshaping the narrative is one of the hidden keys of the Hamilton Musical. Adding women back into the narrative interweaves with the anti-slavery narrative. John Laurens, Hamilton’s closest friend, was an ardent supporter of ending slavery, as shown in the play, “And but we will never be truly free until those in bondage have the same rights as you and me. You and I do or die, wait until I saddle in on a stallion with the first black battalion.” (My Shot)
Laurens was crucial in recruiting 3,000 black slaves for the Continental army. His untimely death in 1782 and his intense friendship with Hamilton (scholars have alluded to a possible homosexual nature) might have contributed to his absence in history books. The play, in contrast, celebrates a man who understood that true freedom, means freedom for ALL.
Professor George D. Massey from the University of South Carolina writes,
Laurens speaks more clearly to us today than other men of the American Revolution whose names are far more familiar. Laurens believed liberty that rested on the sweat of slaves was not deserving of the name. To that extent, at least, his beliefs make him our contemporary, a man worthy of more attention than the footnote he has been in most accounts of the American Revolution.
Hamilton the Musical understands this and tells the story of his role in shaping America. In reminding the audience that at America’s earliest days, humanity was being fought for – in all its forms. More importantly it is a discussion and fight that is still needed today.
This musical has become a beacon of the progress we have made and the progress still needed. It is a beacon of what art can continually help bring us closer and closer to progress, equality, and freedom. It has satisfied a hole in which history lessons have been lacking. I end this post with a great video of the actresses who play the Schuyler Sisters singing/rapping Feminist quotes
Anjeanette LeBoeuf is on the verge of taking her qualifying exams in Women Studies in Religion at Claremont Graduate University. Her focuses are divided between South Asian religions and religion and popular culture. She has become focused on exploring the representations of women in all forms of popular culture and how religion plays into them. Recently she drove across country to learn Sanskrit at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. She is an avid supporter of both soccer and hockey. She is also a television and movie buff which probably takes way too much of her time, but she enjoys every minute of it. She has become quite infatuated with the musical Hamilton and has written two posts: “History has its owns on you” and “You want a revolution, I want a revaltion: Changing the Narrative.”
Categories: Popular Culture