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Northwestern University

Hamilton on Campus

When Broadway actor Anthony Ramos pointed his microphone at the crowd, the Northwestern audience didn’t hesitate to respond.

“Alexander Hamilton,” hundreds of voices roared back in a hip-hop rhythm.

An original cast member in the acclaimed Broadway hit Hamilton: An American Musical, Ramos visited Lutkin Hall on Feb. 3 to perform and share his thoughts about the show’s relevance to today’s America.

“The musical’s about revolution, how everybody’s fighting for something,” said Ramos, who played both John Laurens and Philip Hamilton on Broadway. “The words are timeless … and it’s a show that is relevant for every moment in time.”

Ramos recalled a moment after the November election when the New York audience spontaneously applauded after he sang the line “Tomorrow there will be more of us.” 

Anthony Ramos playing the guitar in front of a microphone“That made me think: ‘What am I doing to lead?’” Ramos said.

“One thing I’ve learned is, don’t be oblivious,” he added. “You should be informed so that you know what you’re fighting for.”

For the roughly 200 students enrolled in two Hamilton-focused Weinberg College courses this winter, Ramos’ visit was a highlight of the quarter.

One class, “Hamilton’s America,” examined Alexander Hamilton the founding father as well as the eponymous Broadway sensation. History professors Geraldo Cadava and Caitlin Fitz designed the course to help students appreciate the ways that history shapes and then reshapes the world. 

Fitz, who focuses on early American history, covered Hamilton’s life and politics along with Revolutionary-era notions of honor and masculinity, marriage and infidelity, and freedom and slavery. Cadava, a Latino historian, explored the contemporary resonance of the musical, whose cast is dominated by people of color. 

The College’s second Hamilton-themed course, “Hamilton: Bullets, Banks and Broadway,” examined “the real history of the moment, as well as the core elements that bind our nation together,” said Laura Beth Nielsen, a professor of sociology and director of legal studies. “This interdisciplinary journey was about giving students a set of tools to analyze today’s constitutional debates.” 

The legal studies course brought in an array of faculty from African American studies, political science, English and history to show how different scholarly disciplines approach Hamilton the musical, Hamilton the man and America’s founding principles. The highlight of the course? A live performance of the musical in downtown Chicago on Jan. 12.

“I loved the opportunity to grapple with history and reality while also appreciating the artistic value of the show,” said Chelsea Hammersmith ’18. She added that she found Ramos’ visit particularly enlightening. “To learn about the research he did and what he tried to bring to the role added depth to the very topics we’re exploring in class.” 

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