As we approach Independence Day, it seems like the American Revolution is on people’s minds more than any time in recent history. It is in the news and our entertainment through television shows like Turn: Washington’s Spies and archeological finds like the artifacts recently unearthed at Sandy Hook. But nothing has brought the people who fought the Revolutionary War into popular focus like Lin-Manuel Miranda’s revolutionary – in all senses of the word – Broadway musical Hamilton, which recently won 11 Tony awards.
Based on the life of Alexander Hamilton, the first Secretary of the Treasury under George Washington, Hamilton is sung in rap music, with all of the principle cast (save King George) played by people of color. Miranda’s choices in look, feel, and sound have reenergized a well-known story, and created ownership of it for people – both cast members and fans – who would often be excluded from representation in this era of American history. This unexpected retelling resonates with people, who can see the spirit of that fight for freedom in an inclusive, distinctly contemporary-looking and sounding America.
So, this Independence Day, you might be feeling a hunger to learn more about the era of the Revolution. We have plenty of academic sources in our databases, like America: History and Life or American History Online, to do research with. But Miranda first got the idea for his musical from reading Ron Chernow’s biography of Hamilton while on vacation, which made the revolutionary’s life come alive for him.
If you’re looking for similar inspiration, the library stocks many biographies of the Founding Fathers, from giants such as Cincinnatus: George Washington and the Enlightenment by Garry Wills, The First American: The Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin by H.W. Brands, John Adams by David McCullough, Martha Washington: First Lady of Liberty by Helen Bryan, Patrick Henry: A Biography by Richard R. Beeman, Abigail Adams: An American Woman by Charles W. Akers, or Thomas Jefferson and the New Nation; A Biography by Merrill D. Peterson, to ones of lesser known figures like Ethan Allen: Frontier Rebel by Charles A. Jellison, or local hero (and Wayne County’s namesake) Anthony Wayne: Soldier of the Early Republic by Paul David Nelson. Even the darker side of Revolutionary history is represented with Benedict Arnold: Patriot and Traitor by Willard Sterne Randall. And we have plenty of others about the War or the era, including award-winning books like David McCullough’s 1776. And we have several more on Hamilton himself, including The Young Hamilton: A Biography by James Thomas Flexner or Burr, Hamilton, and Jefferson: A Study in Character by Roger G. Kennedy – enough to inspire any taste.
So this Fourth of July, follow Lin-Manuel Miranda’s example. Seize your Independence Day and make it your own!
Need any help finding what you need? Ask us at firstname.lastname@example.org!