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Oberlin History Professor Gathers 'Historians on Hamilton'

Lin Manuel Miranda's Tony-winning smash, "Hamilton," lands in Playhouse Square this week.

It's been billed as a revolutionary musical about the American Revolution, but is the critically-acclaimed show really revolutionary?  Not according to Oberlin College history professor Renee Romano. 

In the new book she's co-edited, "Historians on Hamilton," opinions are varied on the musical's true reflection of American history. 

"One of the things that early Americanists recognize (people who study early American history) is there are a lot of things the musical does not get right," Romano said.

For instance, Hamilton wasn't technically an immigrant.

"That's not really the right way to think about someone who's coming from one part of the British Empire to another part of the British Empire before there's even a country called the United States of America," she said.

However, despite any historical mistakes in the musical, teachers across the country are using the Tony-winning show to engage students in American history.

Romano points out how one of the book's contributors, New York City teacher Jim Cullen, took advantage of his students' passion for the music of Hamilton.

"He decided [he] had to do a class on this when he walked into homeroom and found students singing the musical.  He thought, 'wow my students usually don't sing historical songs.'  Clearly this is a moment where [he] could meet them where they're at," she said.

Another bonus is the musical's bipartisan popularity.

"It has won support among people who are considered both democrats and progressives and among conservatives," she said.

Hamilton: An American Musical is onstage at Playhouse Square July 17 - August 26

Dave DeOreo is coordinating producer for Ideastream Public Media’s arts and culture team.