Miranda realized Hamilton would be useful for educators years before the show was completed, when he performed what would become its opening number at a White House event in 2009. Since that video surfaced online, “the No. 1 YouTube comment has been, ‘My teacher showed us this in APUSH,’” Miranda says. “I think teachers used just that one clip for the past six years as their intro to Hamilton.”
What he never anticipated was the scope of the Hamilton teaching phenomenon. The playwright has heard from “lots of teachers and educators” about bringing Hamilton into their curriculum. “I get videos from 4-year-olds to college students … of them performing songs from this show,” he says. “They’re learning songs they like and weirdly learning U.S. history in the process.”
Over the holidays, Miranda received a text about students raising money to buy their social studies teacher tickets to Hamilton for Christmas. “It’s very surreal and beautiful.”
The trend has made its way to the opposite coast. In Los Angeles, Angelica Davila, an eighth-grade teacher and self-professed musical theater nerd, heard the Hamilton songs and immediately began planning an American Revolution unit. Davila works at a small charter school where faculty teach a variety of subjects and 95 percent of students are Hispanic. So she handed out a packet dividing the characters and songs into three categories—political, military and personal—and had them choose one figure on whom to write a five-page biography. “I teach a lower-income Latino population,” she explains. “They’re really into hip-hop and R&B—especially ’90s hip-hop—and [Miranda] draws a lot from classic hip-hop. There are Biggie and Tupac references everywhere in the show. My kids were really drawn to that.”
The eighth-graders started requesting Hamilton as background music even when they weren’t working on those projects. When it came time to choose a song to perform in the school’s annual winter concert, they picked Hamilton’s opening number. And though they are young, the kids picked up on the show’s racial inclusivity (Davila made a point of showing YouTube clips and interviews).
“Not only is this the music they love to listen to on their own free time, they’re seeing faces that look like theirs telling American history,” Davila says. “It’s really challenging for them to relate to American history when their stories are not being told. With this musical and with the casting of the show in particular, they finally have a chance to see themselves in our country’s history for the first time.”