Thursday, April 14, 2016

Rap and History

Used only to explain subject of blog.
Do not reproduce. 
May be subject to (c).

Before leaving the topic of teaching history to young people, I must mention Hamilton, the musical currently attracting sold-out crowds on Broadway.  Critics and ticket-buyers love it!
In an appearance on CBS Morning to introduce the new book about Hamilton, the musical, author Lin-Manuel Miranda described a program for young people that the musical is sponsoring, which challenges participants to produce works about Alexander Hamilton which cover events in Hamilton's life that are not included in the musical. 
Miranda has introduced a new way of sharing history with this Broadway production.  He read Ron Chernow's book, Alexander Hamilton, and it inspired him to envision the life of Hamilton as a musical.  In 1917 a play about Hamilton had appeared on Broadway, but Miranda had something different in mind.
He performed his idea at a workshop production in 2013, and the positive reaction encouraged him to continue working until he was ready to open off-Broadway at The Public Theater in early 2015, with such success there that Hamilton moved to the Richard Rodgers Theatre on Broadway in August of 2015.
For two and a half hours audiences keep up with the rapid-fire lyrics sharing Hamilton's life.  Miranda has reached an audience that might never have otherwise heard of Alexander Hamilton!
The comment from one follower of my blog lamented that he did not believe his knowledge of history was adequate to qualify him as a teacher, (although I believe he is well qualified), yet Miranda admitted during the CBS interview that he had not been a good student of history, and reading Chernow's biography motivated him to do more research.  Surely many of those who saw the musical or heard the Grammy Award winning album were motivated to learn more about Hamilton and the history of that era because of Miranda's work.  It is impossible to know how many people one artist, regardless of his or her medium, may inspire.

G.L.W-T. complimented me for using popular song lyrics and the sports pages to introduce my students to poetry, and W.S. recalled his father's W.W. I letters as the source of his personal interest in that historic period.  Last week in "History & Young People," I described various 'triggers' that lead us to more and more information, and Miranda has used rap music to do exactly that.

There are many ways to make history come alive for young people, if we just open our minds to help us open theirs!

You might enjoy reading my earlier posts about Alexander Hamilton at "You Can't Please Everybody," 7-9-2015 and "Survey Results for $10 Bill Image, 7-16-2015 in the Blog Archives.

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