This Fourth of July weekend, which finds much of America reeling from a rocky first half of 2020, the mainstream and social media hype can be summed up in three words: “Hamilton” is back. The play has won 11 Tony Awards and a Pulitzer Prize for drama, and, according to Forbes, has generated over $1 billion in income from Broadway/London/United States tour ticket sales, publishing, cast recording and merchandising. A filmed version was released on the Disney+ streaming service on Friday.
But clearly it has landed in a different landscape from 2015, when “Hamilton” premiered on Broadway. What Lauren Michele Jackson, writing in the New Yorker, calls the “righteous, multicultural patriotism” of the play seems now at odds with Black Lives Matter’s strident call for radical change to an America where the legacy of white supremacy lives on. In addition to demanding an end to anti-Black violence from police, many protesters have focused on removing or toppling various statues and monuments of Confederate leaders, as well as Andrew Jackson, Teddy Roosevelt, Christopher Columbus and even one of Abraham Lincoln, because of their symbolism.