Hamilton, a hip-hop musical about the founding fathers and a huge hit on Broadway, draws “a straight line from America’s revolutionary moment to the contemporary music and idioms of youthful rebellion,” writes Robert Pondiscio, who teaches citizenship at Democracy Prep charters, on The 74. Its creator and star, Lin-Manuel Miranda, is a genius.
So is Ta-Nehisi Coates, author of Between the World and Me, a “powerful jeremiad” with a “hopeless, even nihilistic” message about the future of young blacks in America.
I Want My Students to Read Ta-Nehisi Coates But Believe Lin-Manuel Miranda, writes Pondiscio.
It is impossible to think of our founders merely as dead white males once you have seen them embodied by young black and brown ones. On stage nightly, “Hamilton” transfers ownership of America’s narrative and ideals to those whose grip on them has been fraught for more than 200 years.
Miranda, a New Yorker of Puerto Rican ethnicity, portrays Hamilton as an ambitious immigrant. The cast is mostly brown or black — except for King George III. The lyrics invoke the “call to build a more perfect union,” writes Pondiscio.
Coates’ book preaches that “America is structurally and irredeemably racist,” writes Pondiscio. His “message to young people of color is you have had the great misfortune to be born in a country that is determined only to break your black body.”
Schools and educators are tools of oppression, Coates writes. He sneers at teachers’ good “intentions” and condemns those who speak of “personal responsibility” in “a country authored and sustained by a criminal irresponsibility.”
Yet, high school teachers and college professors are assigning Between the World and Me. Pondiscio wants kids to read the book — but to choose Miranda’s hope over Coates’ despair.
I gave my daughter tickets to Hamilton as a Christmas/birthday present. (They are wildly expensive.) She said it’s fantastic.