February 5, 2019

PUNCH BACK TWICE AS HARD, THE MUSICAL-HISTORY VERSION: Historians irked by musical ‘Hamilton’ mounting a counter-attack play.

Ever since the historical musical “Hamilton” began its march to near-universal infatuation, one group has noticeable withheld its applause — historians. Many academics argue the stage musical portrait of Alexander Hamilton, the star of our $10 bills, is a counterfeit. Now they’re escalating their fight.

Ishmael Reed, who has been nominated twice for a National Book Award, has chosen to fight fire with fire — collecting his critique of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s acclaimed show into a play. . . .

Reed, whose play had a recent reading in New York and who is raising money for a four-week production in May, is part of a wave of “Hamilton” skeptics — often solitary voices of dissent amid a wall of fawning attention — who have written journal articles, newspaper op-eds and a 2018 collection of essays, “Historians on Hamilton.”

Miranda’s glowing portrayal of a Hamilton who celebrates open borders — “Immigrants, we get the job done!” — and who denounces slavery has incensed everyone from professors at Harvard to the University of Houston to Rutgers.

They argue that Miranda got Hamilton all wrong — the Founding Father wasn’t progressive at all, his actual role as a slave owner has been whitewashed and the pro-immigrant figure onstage hides the fact that he was, in fact, an anti-immigration elitist.

“It’s a fictional rewrite of Hamilton. You can’t pick the history facts that you want,” said Nancy Isenberg , a professor of American history at Louisiana State University who has written a biography of Aaron Burr and is the author of “White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America.”

I wish them luck, but as Martin Luther commented, the Devil has all the good tunes.

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