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1776 and Hamilton

Our past reading in PHOS ignited my curiosity as to how the American Revolution truly played out for the colonies. We learned from Zinn that the majority of the population did not even feel inclined to rebel against the British; most of the colonial men joined up in arms to reap economic benefits after the war. Watching 1776 and Hamilton has now elevated my curiosity more since each one depicts the Revolution in different manners.

One key difference between 1776 and Hamilton is how America’s elite is represented. Hamilton does a refreshing job in showing the diversity of America with the inclusion of minorities such as women and blacks whose roles in America’s history are often silenced by those in power. In the Broadway production, Hamilton is even played by Lin-Manuel, who comes from Latino descent, which elevates the production’s multiculturalism even more. This musical displays how America’s society should have been represented in history from the start, but instead we have just been focused on rich old white guys.

How Lin-Manuel Miranda tells the story of Hamilton and his impact in the Revolution is also very different than any way history has been told. Miranda utilized modern hip-hop and rap to tell the stories, which resonated with the younger demographic of society and provided a more entertaining way to learn our nation’s history. I don’t think this has been done before in such an effective way. Not only did Miranda use modern storytelling forms, but he is also telling a story that has not been focused on in most curriculums, at least in my opinion. Until I watched Hamilton, I had never heard the full story of Hamilton’s involvement of the Revolution in my history classes. This is a shame since Hamilton was extremely educated and played a big role in the decisions the Founding Fathers made.

On the other hand, 1776 had a more traditional take on the history of the American Revolution. It involved the conversations of mainly wealthy white men. No women played key roles in the musical, unlike Hamilton with the Schuyler sisters and the daughters of Philip Schuyler, the Revolutionary War general. Although, 1776 was also unique in how the production told history with the presence of silly banter between the delegates of the states. I have never heard of any member of the colonial elite being humorous, so this was definitely something new to see.

With both of these musicals, the same historical events are being discussed but in very different ways. Different people and issues are focused on in each one. There are so many perspectives of historical events that are told now and so many different ways in which they are told. So, my question is, how can we discover all these perspectives that have been silenced for so long? How do we know what voices to look for? There is so much information out there, how does one know what questions to ask and where to look for them to get the full story of an event.

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  1. Charley Blount Charley Blount

    That’s a great point about varying perspectives. I wonder how big of a role the different time periods plays on these differences. If there is a difference, it’s ironic that a historical description from over 200 years ago can change in less than half a century.

  2. Christopher Wilson Christopher Wilson

    After watching 1776 and listening to Dr. Bezio’s seventh podcast, I too have questions about how society can accurately represent the perspectives of people from diverse backgrounds. I would say that Dr. Bezio offers us one solution to your question on how can narrate history so that it tells the whole truth and not just the bits and pieces that the elite want us to be influenced by. This solution, of course, is close reading the various forms of entertainment we engage with daily. I believe that by doing this, we will get closer to the truths in history as time goes on. Although, we still need to be mindful that all stories are misleading and are sometimes not even meant to become part of history.

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