By now probably everybody has heard of the plan to replace Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill with Harriet Tubman. This was getting thrown around for a few months prior to this announcement, with many happy to finally see the President who engineered a genocide of native Americans get taken off of our currency. A poll was put in place to determine who would be the best replacement (with a strong preference for a women or an African American). While there’s always detractors to any argument, there was general consensus that not many people would miss Ole’ Hickory, and our money could strongly use some diversity to better represent the rich and diverse history of our nation.
So Harriet Tubman seems like a perfect fit. A woman, an African American and a gigantic historic figure in our nation’s history. However in the weeks and months leading up to the eventual decision there was actually a move away from Jackson and the 20 Dollar bill and an eye on the 10 dollar bill and the less known (and less controversial) Alexander Hamilton. I assume this was meant to avoid any controversy that might be caused by ousting Jackson.
Now personally I didn’t quite know much about Hamilton, as I’m sure many people don’t know much. I know he wasn’t president (“The Wire” reminded me of that), and if pressed I might be able to come up with the fact that he was the first Treasury Secretary, but other than that, I was lost. So was this founding father about to get ousted from his spot on our currency simply because people weren’t abreast of his story? Could a smash hit Broadway musical change that, and perhaps change history? Is this real life? It just might be…
Could a Broadway Musical Change History?
For those that have been under a rock for the past few months, “Hamilton: An American Musical” has become a transcendent success on Broadway, selling out every show and driving secondary market ticket prices to unprecedented levels. It’s surpassed “Wicked the Musical” tickets’ prices (the next most popular show on Broadway) by a factor a 200-1000% percent!
The musical has been credited with engaging the younger generation and informing them of their nation’s history in a way that is much more diverse (all the main characters are played by Black and Brown actors). The show received praise directly from President Obama at this year’s Tony Awards. Its soundtrack is a best seller and it will likely spawn a national tour whose shows sell out in minutes. Its already made history on Broadway.
But its impact hasn’t stopped in the Theater District, it may have gone all the way to D.C. and our national currency. Apparently the red hot popularity of the show has influenced a decision on how the $10 bill will be redesigned. According to this article:
Hamilton creator and star Lin-Manuel Miranda said on Wednesday (Mar. 16) that he had received “multiple assurances” from Lew that admirers of Hamilton would “not be disappointed” by the new design. Miranda met with Lew on Monday, before his visit to the White House(.)
“Lew” in this instance is Jack Lew, the current Treasury Secretary of the United States! Our Treasury Secretary basically ran it by a Lin-Manuel Miranda, assuring that fans of a broadway musical wouldn’t be disappointed with the new design of our legal tender. I can’t be the only one amazed at that?
What can we make of this? I don’t want to overstate the importance or impact of a broadway musical, but I think there can be concensus over the fact that such an influence is not only remarkable but probably unprecedented. Our national currency (while not as important as laws or policy) is an important reflection of what we respect as a country, it’s our face to the world.
This is why it has always been a terrible affront to Native Americans that we’ve had Andrew Jackson on the $20. However our own general ignorance of Hamilton almost led us down the path of ditching him as well. It’s arguably the case that one man, Lin-Manuel Miranda, inspired by a biography of Alexander Hamilton, created a sensation that may have altered that path.
As a final aside, I think this speaks to a basic fact of life, that pursuing your dreams can lead to unexpected and seemingly impossible outcomes. I encourage every student here at SPS and throughout CUNY to keep their head down and pursue whatever area fulfills them and makes their lives happy and enriched. You’ll never know where that path will take you, but it will invariably lead you to success. It might even get you to the White House.
Michael is currently pursuing his Bachelors of Science in Information Systems and plans on pursuing a Master Degree in Data Analytics from CUNY SPS after graduation. He’s worked in the Internet Marketing sector for nearly 7 years and specialize in Search Engine Optimization.