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Was Alexander Hamilton Black or White?

July 4, 2020
3 min read

One of the most successful musicals of the 21st century so far is certainly ‘Hamilton.‘ The play was nominated for a record 16 Tony Awards and won 11 of them. Then, Disney bought the exclusive rights to a live stage recording for a whopping $75 million. If that does not tell you about the influence and popularity of ‘Hamilton,’ nothing else will.

There are several reasons for its success. Firstly, it is a masterfully crafted musical, with every word intensely mulled over. It uses modern storytelling forms and modern music including hip hop, R&B, and even rap to tell a story set in the past. Lin-Manuel Miranda who wrote the music for the play also plays the titular character in it.

‘Hamilton’ is based on a biographical novel titled ‘Alexander Hamilton’ by Ron Chernow. While Hamilton was one of the founding fathers of the United States, the country’s history textbooks do not mention him much. This has led to confusion regarding his race. Thanks to non-Caucasian actors playing several key characters in the play, some viewers have wondered whether Alexander Hamilton was black.

Was Alexander Hamilton Black?

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Firstly, the topic of non-white actors in ‘Hamilton’ must be addressed. In the play, non-Caucasian actors are cast in the role of Caucasian figures. This is done intentionally. “Our cast looks like America looks now, and that’s certainly intentional. It’s a way of pulling you into the story and allowing you to leave whatever cultural baggage you have about the founding fathers at the door,” Miranda told New York Times. This creative choice is also a form of subversion of racially discriminatory representation practices such as blackface.

The character of Alexander Hamilton is played by Lin-Manuel Miranda who is Hispanic, and Puerto Rican in origin. This and the casting of other characters must have combined to lead people to wonder about Alexander Hamilton’s race. Plus, in the musical, Hamilton is depicted to be fervently against slavery.

Well, Alexander Hamilton was not black. He was Caucasian according to historical records. There is also some speculation that Alexander Hamilton’s mother might have been of mixed race, making Alexander Hamilton 1/8th (or a lesser fraction, for whomsoever this number matters) black. However, these speculations have been proven to be baseless. In tax records, the race of Alexander Hamilton’s mother was listed to be white. Alexander Hamilton’s father, on the other hand, James Hamilton was Scottish in descent. This fact has been largely unquestioned.

In a nutshell, Alexander Hamilton’s race was Caucasian as far as historical records go. It is also unlikely that his mother was of mixed race.

Read More: Where Was Disney’s Hamilton Filmed?

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