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Is Hamilton the Musical historically accurate? Hamilton seems to be all anyone can talk about this weekend since it debuted on Disney+ but why in this “Black Lives Matter” era, are there no outcries about Hamilton buying and selling slaves?
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Is Hamilton the Musical Historically Accurate?
Hamilton was no abolitionist. He was a founder of the New York Manumission Society, an anti-slavery group, but he did not seriously propose the total abolition of slavery, said Michael Newton, a historian, and author of several books on Hamilton and the founding era. He also bought and sold slaves for his in-laws.
Hamilton was adamantly opposed to the open immigration policies that President Thomas Jefferson proposed in his first annual message to Congress in 1801.
According to the National Archives, Burr challenged Hamilton after Hamilton campaigned and allegedly made disparaging remarks against him during Burr’s run to become New York’s governor in 1804.
Black stories omitted from the musical include Crispus Attucks, the Black man killed during the Boston Massacre, and Cato, who was born into slavery but worked as an anti-British spy alongside Hamilton’s friend Hercules Mulligan.
Hamilton was confronted by House Speaker Frederick Muhlenberg, Rep. Abraham Venable of Virginia, and future President James Monroe about the money he paid Reynolds.
James Madison was no sidekick to Thomas Jefferson. He was of the same historical significance as Hamilton and Jefferson.
The Schuyler sisters had brothers yet in Hamilton the musical they claim otherwise.
5 more historically based musicals worth checking out!
1776 is the 1969 musical by Sherman Edwards and Peter Stone that tells the story of John Adams‘ attempts to get the Declaration of Independence signed by his fellow delegates leading up to July 4, 1776.
The actual vote for independence came on July 2 with the approval of Lee’s resolution of independence. The wording of the Declaration of Independence—the statement to the world as to the reasons necessitating the split—was then debated for three days before being approved on July 4.
John Adams was actually one of the most respected members of Congress in 1776 despite his representation as “obnoxious and disliked”.
Richard Henry Lee’s cousin Henry Lee III was in fact the one who went on to be governor.
Thomas Jefferson is depicted as saying that he has resolved to free his slaves, something he did not do, except for a few slaves freed after his death 50 years later.
Benjamin Franklin claims that he is the founder of an abolitionist organization, but the real Franklin did not become an active abolitionist until after the American Revolution.
[There are more discrepancies but those are some of the most major ones.]
Assassins is the dark and sinister 1990 musical by Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman that stars men and women who tried to assassinate American Presidents.
Evita is the 1976 musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice telling the story of Argentine Eva Peron, First Lady of Argentina.
The lyrics and storyline of the musical are based on Mary Main’s biography, Evita: The Woman with the Whip, which drew heavily upon the accounts of anti-Perónist Argentines.
Shortly after the musical appeared, Nicholas Fraser and Marysa Navarro published a more neutral account of Eva Perón’s life, Evita: The Real Lives of Eva Perón, in which they claim that many of Main’s assertions (which had influenced Rice’s lyrics) were false, such as the suggestion that Eva had first gone to Buenos Aires as the mistress of a married musician, Agustín Magaldi.
RECOMMENDED READING: See my review of the U.S. Equity National Tour here and the 5-Star Theatricals’ production here.
4. The Scottsboro Boys
The Scottsboro Boys is the 2010 musical by John Kander and Fred Ebb about the Scottsboro Boys’ arrest and trials.
Critics were harsh about the use of a minstrel framework for the musical. Director Susan Stroman said that they had “misunderstood that the creators were not celebrating the minstrel tradition but rather using it to reveal the evils of the system”.
Whoopi, on The View, also addressed the criticism by saying, “People are protesting saying that it shouldn’t be a minstrel show, this is too serious. What people don’t understand is that you have to bring information to people in the most invigorating way”.
FILM RECOMMENDATION: Heavens Fall
5. The Sound of Music
The Sound of Music is the 1959 musical by Oscar Hammerstein II and Richard Rodgers based on the 1949 memoir by Maria von Trapp.
The von Trapp family was 9 in number when they escaped Austria.
In real life, the kids’ names were Rupert, Agathe, Maria, Werner, Hedwig, Johanna, and Martina. Later additions were Rosmarie, Eleonore (aka Lorli), and Johannes.
Maria originally came to the von Trapp family as a teacher to the 3rd child – Maria.
Maria and Georg married in 1927, 11 years before the family left Austria.
George was actually a warm and loving father to his children.
The von Trapp family left with their suitcases by train, not in the dark of night.
RECOMMENDED READING: Read my review of the Equity tour of The Sound of Music and the non-Equity tour here as well as my interview with Jake Mills who played Uncle Max.