Updated: Sep 18, 2022
By Becca Miller
Arts and Entertainment Editor
A filmed version of the Broadway show Hamilton began streaming on Disney Plus on July 3, fifteen months earlier than originally planned. The release was moved from October 2021 due to the pandemic. The show was massively successful on Broadway, with 2.6 million people having watched it, and is now available to be seen by the over 50 million Disney Plus subscribers.
Its release on Disney Plus has placed Hamilton under the scrutiny of a racially conscious society. People question whether the show adequately deals with the issue of slavery. The fact is that many of the historical figures portrayed in the show, like Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, George Washington, and the Schuyler family, were enslavers. Alexander Hamilton was not himself an enslaver, but he trafficked enslaved people and married into an enslaving family. While he opposed slavery, in a letter to John Jay in 1779, he wrote that he believed Blacks would make good soldiers in the Patriot army and, in spite of claims that black people were naturally inferior to white people, “their natural faculties are probably as good as ours.” In spite of these then-progressive views, Hamilton oversaw slave sales for the Schuylers and never confronted his wealthy enslaver friends, like Washington. Abolishing slavery was never his priority, especially when it would conflict with his political, social, and economic ascent. There have been calls to cancel Hamilton over this issue.
The show’s creator Lin-Manuel Miranda has acknowledged this controversy. In response to a tweet from Tracy Clayton, writer and host of the Netflix podcast “Strong Black Legends,” he tweeted that, “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.”
It remains to be seen how any of this will affect Hamilton’s popularity, and whether the show will survive this scrutiny. Our society must address and resolve these issues, not just with regard to Hamilton, but everywhere in our culture.