Lin-Manuel Miranda has acknowledged he failed to fully address the U.S. Founding Fathers’ ownership of slaves in his hit musical Hamilton.
Although the smash-hit Broadway show, which debuted as a film on Disney+ on Friday (July 3, 2020), shows its main protagonist Alexander Hamilton opposing slavery, it has faced criticism from some scholars for sanitizing America’s early leaders’ ownership of slaves.
In the play, only Thomas Jefferson is explicitly criticized for owning slaves, while others, such as America’s first president George Washington, who also did, are largely shown as heroic figures.
African-American writer Tracy Clayton addressed the issue in a lengthy Twitter thread, writing that she agreed with the “frustration” that “a play about slaveholders that is not about slavery.”
Responding to Clayton by quoting her tweet and Twitter handle, Miranda acknowledged her criticism was “valid” but explained that he had struggled to address all the complexities of America’s founding in an audience-friendly musical.
“Appreciate you so much, @brokeymcpoverty,” he tweeted. “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.”
Despite winning plaudits for its inclusive messages about immigration’s contribution to the U.S., Hamilton has also come under fire for overstating its title character’s opposition to slavery and association with anti-slavery groups.
Annette Gordon-Reed, professor of history and law at Harvard, told the Harvard Gazette that Hamilton “was not an abolitionist. He bought and sold slaves for his in-laws, and opposing slavery was never at the forefront of his agenda”.