Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Perry Mason Moment

Still from Hamilton (Disney +).

We challenged Lin-Manuel Miranda’s depiction of slave owners and brokers as abolitionists in his billion dollar plus musical “Hamilton, The Revolution,” with our play, “The Haunting of Lin-Manuel Miranda,” in which Miranda is taught the truth by slaves, Native-Americans and others whose views are not represented in “Hamilton.”

The reviews of our play were mixed, and Miranda and company ignored our reservations about their musical. Some of those who discussed our play, ridiculed me without having seen it. The low point came with ridicule from NPR’s “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me.” Yet, “The View,” which those at NPR would consider low brow, presented a balanced discussion of our play. Even though our play was denounced in the comments sections of Broadway World and The New York Times, it continued to dog “Hamilton” in the international media. It took George Floyd’s live execution to inspire another look at the American past. The statues of slave owners were overturned, and official television historians, Chernow, Meacham, Kearns-Goodwin, and even Douglas Brinkley were put on the defensive as they were challenged by the new historians, a generation of Blacks, White men and women, Latinx, and Native-Americans. It was three women: Nancy Isenberg, Lyra Monteiro, and Michelle DuRoss who challenged “Hamilton.” My play merely popularized their dissent.

Historian Elizabeth Brown Pryor took down the reputation of Robert E. Lee before the physical statues were demolished. Under pressure by the revolt against the men of marble launched by Floyd’s death and Black Lives Matter, Miranda had to defend his honoring slave owners and traders in his musical, which erected onstage statues for Hamilton and the Schuyler sisters, who were involved in the evil business of slavery all of their lives. While he and his business people ignored our challenge, it took a tweet from tracy clayton aka CHUBBA BEEF to get him to fess up. A theatrical Perry Mason moment.

 

What?

He’s saying that he cut out the part about his heroes as slave owners, slave traders and advocates of Native American extermination and kept the sales parts. The critics forced the “Hamilton” salespersons to back up their original claim that Hamilton was an abolitionist. To her credit, historian Annette Gordon Reed criticized this portrayal. Then the billion dollar spin became Hamilton was opposed to slavery. I pointed out that when the Haitians revolted against the French enslavers, Jefferson and Hamilton sided with the slave holders. So now Hamilton was merely a seller of slaves as if that were okay. Miranda, prodded by Tracy Clayton,he says that the critics are right. He now says that he might have written a harsher assessment of Hamilton and the Schuylers but he “wrestled with but cut?” Is he going to publish the script as it read before Jeffrey Seller and the business men edited it so that it became state propaganda and box office friendly? The new line continues “well. I only had 2.5. Hours and couldn’t get everything in.” This new sales campaign was supported by a media that has received millions in ad revenue from “Hamilton.” Miranda’s new line that he couldn’t get everything in was supported by two historians. Annette Gordon Reed, was quoted in The Los Angeles Times, July 10, in an article by Arts and Entertainment intern Laura Zornosa, as complying with the new sales pitch:” More recently, she chimed into the #CancelHamilton Twitter debate with the sound analysis that: “We don’t do enough movies, plays, TV shows about… Early America. That’s why people have such high expectations for a production like #Hamilton. The same often happens with movies about black life. The movie is supposed to show everything, and it can’t do that and be any good.”

Described by Laura Zornosa as a “Preeminent Hamilton scholar Joanne B. Freeman  admitted in 2015 that the musical was in no way perfect in its telling of the man’s life and times but that that wasn’t the point. Rather, it was meant to humanize the past and place it in conversation with the present.”

Professor Freeman got paid for this gibberish? What the writer, who apparently admires both women, failed to mention was that both women are on the “Hamilton payroll.” Ms. Freeman was the consultant for the ill-fated Hamilton museum which was built in Chicago as was Annette Gordon Reed.

The reviewer for a newspaper that received a handsome portion of Hamilton’s ad budget in a time when ad revenue is wanting because of the virus, slobbered praise all over the Disney “Hamilton” while giving “The Haunting of Lin-Manuel Miranda” a lukewarm review. With the Disney adaptation of “Hamilton,” there rose a #cancelhamilton movement. Miranda say about a tonnage of material prevented him from getting everything in. What “tonnage of material”? Miranda based “Hamilton” basically on one book, Ron Chernow’s Hamilton, and cherry-picked the parts that would bring in revenue for this state sponsored musical. He should have read The Intimate Life of Alexander Hamilton by Alan McLane Hamilton, Hamilton’s grandson. He writes, “It has been stated that Hamilton never owned a negro slave, but this is untrue. We find that in his books there are entries showing that he purchased them for himself and for others.” And who would better know the attitude of his grandfather?

The citizens of Albany are removing General Phillip Schuyler’s statue from downtown Albany. It’s not fair. He goes down while his co-conspirators, Hamilton and Schuyler’s daughters, are shown as progressives in a Broadway musical and film.   While the Miranda people continue to ignore our challenge to “Hamilton” his media supporters continue to attack us. Some were ad hominem. For the City Journal, the paper published by the far right Manhattan Institute whose benefactors are the Koch brothers and others, I’m part of a social justice mob for raising questions about “Hamilton” and an “old-timer.”This is an organization whose fellows are descendants of those who were regarded as unfit for citizenship in the United States and seen as possessing a crime gene. As far as my being an older-timer, hundreds of thousands perished before reaching my age because of the tobacco industry’s lies about the dangers of cigarettes. The Manhattan Institute is funded by the Tobacco Industry. The other defense of Miranda is that he had a right to “take liberties with the Hamilton history.” Well you can take liberties with the history of some but you’d better not take liberties with the history of others. You can do “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson,” but you can’t do a musical in which Jackson’s family is captured by the Cherokee, placed in chains and sent back to Scotland. You can denigrate Nat Turner, taking poetic license with his history, but you won’t get investors to back a musical in which David Crockett is pro slavery who  gets  done in by Santa Anna, an abolitionist. You can besmirch Martin Luther King, Jr.’s reputation, but you better not do Ronald Reagan, who was a rapist according to Kitty Kelly.

Even with their millions, Disney can’t shake us off. In reviews of the Disney “Hamilton,” “The Haunting of Lin-Manuel Miranda,” was cited as the opposition. This occurred in German and English newspapers as well as syndicated reviews printed in USA Today. With the help of our donors at Go Fund Me, project title “My Hamilton and Theirs,” thousands will now be able to view “The Haunting of Lin-Manuel Miranda,” Tuesday night, July 14, 8PM EDT

Three ways to tune in, here are the links:

Ovationtix (where people can RSVP for free, find the Zoom link, and donate).

Facebook event page.

Zoom link.

It’s FREE, but you can help support this project by donating here (and enter the word “Haunting” in the donation memo.) and SHARING! SCafe.

Ishmael Reed is the author of The Complete Muhammad Ali.