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“Immigrants, we get the job done”: National Identity in Hamilton By Esther Adema

In the past few weeks you may have heard a lot about the Broadway musical Hamilton. The show raked in a record number of sixteen Tony nominations and won eleven. Its creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda, has won a Pulitzer for this show and has been the recipient of the MacArthur Genius grant. Hamilton tells the story of the first U.S. Treasury Secretary and one of the youngest Founding Fathers, Alexander Hamilton. However, instead of featuring a variety of white men in powdered wigs, as you might expect, the cast consists almost exclusively of people of color. In fact, the only white main cast member plays the part of King George III of England, locating whiteness firmly in the past. The music is also not what you might expect, as hip-hop is a major influence, as well as jazz and R&B. This contemporary interpretation of the founding of the United States is meant to bring the audience closer to the story. As Miranda said, “This is a story about America then, told by America now and we want to eliminate any distance between a contemporary audience and this story.”[1] However, there is another effect to telling the story in this way. Hamilton not only tells the story of nation-building in the past, it also actively participates in contemporary nation-building, through its message of hope and the American Dream that is aimed specifically at people of color and immigrants. In a time of turmoil concerning police brutality towards people of color, an immigration crisis, and islamophobia, such a message has a revolutionary and uniting effect in American society.

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