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Why History Has Its Eyes on Hamilton’s Diversity

“We have the opportunity to reclaim a history that some of us don’t necessarily think is our own"

In 2015, Lin-Manuel Miranda, a man once not known to many outside his circle of Broadway legions, shed light on another man once not known to many outside a circle of knowledgeable historians. But Miranda took one of America’s founding fathers and turned him—and thus, himself—into a star.

The Broadway show Hamilton uses rap and hip-hop to tell the story of Alexander Hamilton’s rise to power during the American Revolution. The show broke multiple records for its cast recording and notched record-breaking sales of $32 million before it even hit Broadway. But the cast makes history in different ways, too, with men and women of color playing characters who were all white. There’s an African-American Vice President Aaron Burr, a biracial George Washington and a Chinese-American Mrs. Alexander Hamilton.

Hamilton is a story about America, and the most beautiful thing about it is…it’s told by such a diverse cast with a such diverse styles of music,” says Renee Elise Goldsberry, who plays Angelica Schuyler, Hamilton’s sister-in-law. “We have the opportunity to reclaim a history that some of us don’t necessarily think is our own.”

Top, from left: Leslie Odom Jr. (Aaron Burr), Christopher Jackson (George Washington), Daveed Diggs (Marquis de Lafayette/Thomas Jefferson). Bottom, from Left: Phillipa Soo (Eliza Hamilton), Renée Elise Goldsberry (Angelica Schuyler).
Top, from left: Leslie Odom Jr. (Aaron Burr), Christopher Jackson (George Washington), Daveed Diggs (Marquis de Lafayette/Thomas Jefferson). Bottom, from Left: Phillipa Soo (Eliza Hamilton), Renée Elise Goldsberry (Angelica Schuyler).Erik Madigan Heck for TIME

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