In its first year on Broadway, the smash musical Hamilton raked in 11 Tony awards and a Pulitzer Prize. When a filmed version of the stage show debuted on Disney+ just in time for Independence Day 2020, it quickly became the most-streamed program not just of July but of any month this year. But perhaps the strongest evidence of Hamilton‘s overwhelming popularity is that it was enough to stave off a progressive mob at a moment when little else has survived being scrutinized through contemporary moral lenses.
Amid demonstrations against police killings of black Americans this summer, some protesters turned their ire to the Founding Fathers, many of whom owned slaves. When a crowd in Portland, Oregon, tore down and set aflame a statue of George Washington in June, it was hard not to wonder whether public opinion might be coming for Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hip-hop story next. Sure enough, the hashtag #CancelHamilton began trending on Twitter shortly after the musical’s streaming release.
Alexander Hamilton was indeed an elitist with authoritarian tendencies and supposed ties to the slave trade. But in the end, the small number of would-be cancelers were no match for the musical’s devoted fans, many of whom are delighted to see America’s founding stories presented in a way that captures the ethnic and cultural diversity of the country that founding begat.