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Miranda responds to 'Hamilton' slavery criticism

Lin-Manuel Miranda and Phillipa Soo play Alexander Hamilton

Lin-Manuel Miranda and Phillipa Soo play Alexander Hamilton and his wife, Eliza, in "Hamilton," which premiered on Disney Plus Friday. Credit: Disney Plus

Following the Disney Plus premiere of the "Hamilton" film performance, the Broadway musical's creator-star, Lin-Manuel Miranda, is acknowledging new criticism that it glosses over Alexander Hamilton's ties to slavery.

After podcaster and social commentator Tracy Clayton tweeted that the 2015 musical and the 2020 movie "were given to us in two different worlds & our willingness to interrogate things in this way feels like a clear sign of change," Miranda, 40, responded, "Appreciate you so much. … 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."

The "Hamilton" official Twitter account retweeted Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize winner Miranda's response.

Clayton, who is in her late 30s, also said she understood "the frustration about it being a play about slaveholders that is not about slavery. ive felt that in lots of things i watch, but i flex the same muscle i use when i listen to [sometimes misogynistic] hip hop as a black woman. we enjoy problematic things all the time." 

But, she added, "to lump it in with statues of columbus and robert e lee denies this conversation the nuance it deserves & we're capable of giving it that."

Miranda additionally tweeted a red-heart emoji response to a later tweet in Clayton's series.

Author and scholar Roxane Gay had tweeted similar concerns during the weekend, writing, "I have a lot of thoughts about Hamilton and the way it idealizes the founders, and how such a brilliant musical dangerously elides they realities of slavery."

Calling "Hamilton" nonetheless "a brilliant show," Gay, 45, noted, "It's not some vulnerable upstart. The show can handle critical engagement and the performances and book and music will still be absolutely incredible."

Founding father Hamilton, America's first Secretary of the Treasury, had grown up in a multiracial society in the West Indies, but while opposed to slavery he was not an active abolitionist. He joined the widespread constitutional compromise of counting Black people as three-fifths of a person, in order to bring Southern states onboard, and married into the family of Phillip Schuyler, one of the largest slave owners in New York State.

In a letter to John Jay in March 1779, Hamilton allowed that Black people's "natural faculties are probably as good as ours," but also emphasized, "The contempt we have been taught to entertain for the blacks, makes us fancy many things that are founded neither in reason nor experience."

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