Lin-Manuel Miranda's 2017 Freedom Award Validates Intersectional Histories In An Important Way
There is no end in sight for Lin-Manuel Miranda receiving accolades and honors based off his award-winning musical, Hamilton. Now deeply embedded in our pop culture consciousness, Hamilton shot Miranda into the stratosphere and made him one of the most sought-after artists working today. Now, those important history lessons and an examination of one of America's most prominent immigrants, Alexander Hamilton, in Hamilton has earned Miranda the 2017 Freedom Award.
According to a recent press release, the 2017 Freedom Award will be given to Miranda "for inspiring informed civic participation and achievement in advancing public understanding of our nation’s founding through Hamilton the Musical and the Hamilton Education Program." The award is given by the United States Capitol Historical Society (USCHS) and is given as a way to thank those whose work directly supports our nation's history and civic activity through the arts and humanities. If ever there was a more apt award for the man who re-introduced one of America's founding fathers to the American people, well, it's tough to think of one.
Miranda is famously well-studied on the life of Hamilton. In a 2016 documentary on Hamilton's life, which also followed to process Miranda underwent to get Hamilton the musical onstage, Miranda served as one of the credible sources who spoke of Hamilton's life. Using historian Ron Chernow's biography of Hamilton as the basis for the play, Miranda was able to see history, process it, and retranslate it into a format (namely, a hip-hop infused musical) that could palatably discuss the complex life of Hamilton, a successful American immigrant.
The ability to translate Hamilton's life into a smash hit musical that used a specific genre of musical to tell a deeply human story is no mean feat. Miranda's own life, as the son of a hard-working immigrant whose own life as a man of color informs his art, feels deeply infused in Hamilton, too. You get the sense from Hamilton that these two men are running parallel to one another, from their humble beginnings to their eventual rise to notoriety.
Miranda's understanding of Hamilton's life in this intimate way arguably give the writing and work he did on Hamilton even greater meaning and importance. That Miranda is continuing to be honored for pouring his own life experiences and vision into telling the story of another man's life is very notable indeed. If anything, Miranda receiving the Freedom Award cements the fact that this work of art is very important to the respective musical and historical canons, as well as serving as an example of the ways in which art can continue to shape and reshape our understanding of history.