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George Washington

George Washington

April 11, 2019 9:29 pmComments are Disabled

I was thinking about George Washington today and all of a sudden I realized that the image I had in my head of our first president was not of this guy…

Image result for george washington

…but of this guy:

Image result for george washington christopher jackson

I was astounded. Obviously, Hamilton‘s Christopher Jackson is an unmatched performer and his portrayal of Washington is a masterpiece. But the fact that his representation of this historical character had replaced the true original in my own head is a testament to the power of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s storytelling, and the brilliant way that Hamilton tells history through contemporary voices.

For, it’s not just the character that comes through in the show–the honesty, the integrity, the inner strength, and the other leadership qualities that made Washington such an extraordinary man in real life. By creating such a moving and accurate portrayal of our first president in living flesh, in modern vernacular, Miranda forces us to see ourselves in our history, and see Washington as more than an engraving on a dollar bill, but as a complicated and real man tortured by self doubt and fear.

It’s also through this portrayal that Miranda’s choice to cast non-white actors in all the main roles, especially Washington, holds true force. For not only is Washington the quintessential American in character and historical relevance, he also, at the time, represented the quintessential American in race and class (and, unfortunately, slave ownership). By casting a black man as George Washington, Hamilton is not doing what some have claimed and disrespecting American history. It’s doing the opposite: it’s embracing and respecting American history and mythos so much that it seeks to claim this heritage for all Americans, not just white Americans. It’s a testament to the power of storytelling to reshape our own perceptions–to force all Americans to recognize themselves in our founding fathers, even if in actual historical reality they were, well, much less representative.

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