We asked teachers and students from across the country to share how “Hamilton” has influenced the classroom. Hear what they had to say.
ENSEMBLE: The Battle of Yorktown. 1781.
MARQUIS DE LAFAYETTE: Monsieur Hamilton.
ALEXANDER HAMILTON: Monsieur Lafayette.
MARQUIS DE LAFAYETTE: In command where you belong.
ALEXANDER HAMILTON: How you say, no sweat. We’re finally–
RISA: If you have children in your house, like I do in mine, you’ve probably heard the Hamilton soundtrack. I know my kids, like most across the country, have been listening to the 2 and 1/2-hour, 46-song album over and over and over again. Needless to say, this enthusiasm for the Founding Fathers has been great for history teachers. So we asked both teachers and students across the country to share how the Hamilton craze has influenced their classes. Here are some of those voices.
GROUP: Hey, BackStory!
COLIN RICHARDSON: Hey, BackStory. This is Colin Richardson. I teach AP US History at Green Hope High School in Cary, North Carolina. Hamilton the musical has created huge enthusiasm in students for that time period, and I’ve seen the bleeding over into a general enthusiasm for history. There are lots of real-life lessons that we discuss in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s work as well, like the depth of the creative process, how it took him two years to write the first two songs, and lots of interdisciplinary thinking.
LOIS MACMILLAN: Well, I’m Lois MacMillan from Grants Pass, Oregon, and I teach at South Middle School. I teach eighth-grade American History. Kids are coming in the classroom with the songs. So they’re already acquainted with the founders. And they’re singing it, and then a lot of the songs are based on primary documents, so it’s just really a great way to catapult into history.
ENSEMBLE: Knox, Knox, Henry Knox. Knox, Knox, Henry Knox.
SARAH STURLEY: Hi. My name is Sarah Sturley. I go to South Middle School, and I did a rap about Henry Knox in Miss MacMillan’s class.
ANNA MACEY: Hey there. I’m Anna Macey, and I worked with Sarah Sturley at South Middle School to also make the Henry Knox rap.
ENSEMBLE: Five ships, hot day, Rebels ran away, taking cannons and submission, calling British sedition. Knox, Knox, Henry Knox.
FEMALE SPEAKER: You had to find a whole bunch of different points of view of him to actually understand what happened, because it’s not always direct and straightforward.
FEMALE SPEAKER: Seeing the different points of view actually really did help us see that history isn’t just so one-sided. You can see that there are so many different things that go into it, and there’s a real thick backstory that you can’t really see.
FEMALE SPEAKER: BackStory? Heh, heh-heh, heh.
GEORGE WASHINGTON: The issue on the table– France is on the verge of war with England. Now, do we provide aid and troops to our French allies, or do we stay out of it?
ERIN FARLEY: My name is Erin Farley. I teach eighth grade American History at New Albany Middle School in New Albany, Ohio. About five years ago I started showing the Hamilton rap that Lin did at the White House. We now are using the rap battle lyrics when talking about the cabinet meetings, and the dynamics to talk about the National Bank and the Neutrality Proclamation.
THOMAS JEFFERSON: (RAPPING) –lend a hand and stand with them if they fought against oppressors, and revolution is messy, but now is the time to stand.
ERIN FARLEY: Ultimately, this play makes history awesome. It makes these people real. They’re not just old white men in history books. They’re real people with hopes, and dreams, and flaws, and warts, and quirks, just like my eighth-graders.
MUBARIKA SYED: Hi, BackStory. I’m Mubarika Syed, and I go to McNair Academic in Jersey City. I think the diversity in Hamilton is very important because often we see our own media saturated with images of powerful white men. And it often becomes the case that there’s more of a token minority. Interestingly enough, in Hamilton this is flipped, and there is instead a token white man being the king. When we see that all these powerful people are people like us, people who aren’t just these stereotypes of white men, we realize that we can also follow in their footsteps.
JUSTIN EMRICH: Hello, BackStory, this is Justin Emrich. I am an eighth-grade American History teacher at Olentangy Berkshire Middle School in Galena, Ohio. What Hamilton has done for my class, is it’s made them want more of history, it’s made them bigger fans of history. It’s made them want to know more about the story. It’s made them want to be little historians. And if that’s what a musical can do, I mean, my goodness– what a great thing this musical has done for history education across the country.
ED: Those were teachers– Lois MacMillan, Colin Richardson, Erin Farley, and Justin Emrich. We also heard from students Anna Macey, Sarah Sturley, and Mubarika Syed. To see more videos of student raps inspired by the music of Hamilton, visit our website at backstoryradio.org