Controversy Erupts Over The “Non-Whites” Only Casting Call For The Hamilton Musical

c31c43da5a919032be6b03eb3c344932There is an interesting controversy surrounding the hit musical “Hamilton” on Broadway. I have not yet seen the play on a trip to New York but I have been told by friends that it is terrific. Frankly, as a constitutional law professor, any play based on the Framers is a must-see. However, the play now has a more contemporary legal character after a complaint about its casting call. The casting notice put out by the play tells white actors that they need not apply.


The posted casting notice stated that the producers were “seeking NON-WHITE men and women, ages 20s to 30s, for Broadway and upcoming Tours.”

None of the principal roles — Hamilton, George Washington, Aaron Burr, Thomas Jefferson or James Madison — are played by white actors. However, Hollywood and Broadway have moved away from type casting and profess to select actors solely on their ability. This was a policy ironically advocated by African-American actors and groups. Thus, it is not strange to have a black actor play Hamlet or other traditionally white acting roles.

While the posting would seem to rollback on this progress, “Hamilton” producer said he would “stand by” the notice.

I happen to believe that artists should be able to limit their subjects or casting in this way as a matter of free speech and artistic expression. The producers insisted that the barring of whites is a necessary condition:

“It is essential to the storytelling of “Hamilton” that the principal roles — which were written for non-white characters (excepting King George) — be performed by non-white actors . . . This adheres to the accepted practice that certain characteristics in certain roles constitute a ‘bona fide occupational qualification’ that is legal. This also follows in the tradition of many shows that call for race, ethnicity or age specific casting, whether it’s “The Color Purple” or “Porgy & Bess” or “Matilda.”

The question that we have previously discussed is whether other businesses should have the right to tailor their image or services by selecting only certain types of workers based on age or looks from Hooters to Abercrombie and Fitch. If racial casting is permitted for plays, can other businesses claim that same right to discriminate as necessary to maintain an image or tradition? Even among acting positions, how do we draw this line? Here the producers are claiming that it is an “accepted practice that certain characteristics in certain roles constitute a ‘bona fide occupational qualification.” That would seem to suggest that black actors could be barred from leading roles that are historically white or based on white characters in literary works.

36 thoughts on “Controversy Erupts Over The “Non-Whites” Only Casting Call For The Hamilton Musical”

  1. “Southwestern University, a liberal arts college in a suburb of Austin, Texas, canceled a campus production of “The Vagina Monologues” because students felt the play placed too much emphasis on the vaginas of white women.”

    The cutting edge objection to the Vagina Monologues is that it alienates “women” who may have penises (or may have formerly had them).

  2. Steve, you are confusing conservatism for nostalgic irredentism.
    They are not the same thing, but your misunderstanding is a common, and the result of much propaganda.

    Try this concise review:

    “Conservatives are convinced that life is worth living, as Kirk was fond of saying, and, unlike liberals, do not seek to force sameness upon humanity.

    Conviction that civilized society needs the rule of law and the middle class, in contrast to the notion of a “classless society.” Conservatives believe there are natural distinctions among men, leading to inequalities of condition.

    Conservatives affirm equality before God and the courts; anything more leads to “servitude and boredom.”

    Freedom and property are linked: without private property, the state is unstoppable.

    Redistribution of wealth, by taxes or other means, is not economic progress. Men need property to secure their rights, discharge their duties, and limit government.

    Faith in prescription and distrust of those calculating men who would reconstruct all of society according to their own abstract designs.

    A conservative believes things are the way they are for a good reason: past generations have passed on customs and conventions that stood the test of time. Customs serve as a check on anarchy and the lust for power.

    Recognition that change may not be a good thing. Hasty innovation can destroy as well as improve, so conservatives are prudent with their changes and approach reform with caution rather than zeal.”

  3. Silliness. Sooo, could Rachel Dolezal apply??? I mean if guys want to self-identify as women, and use our toilets, why can’t white people self-identify as blacks and apply for a cast position??? American needs another Great Depression, or a big meteor strike to give us something real to worry about.

    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

  4. Super-fan Tina Pepe, 57, of Armonk, N.Y., who’s already seen “Hamilton” twice, believes in author Lin-Manuel Miranda’s colorblind concept.

    “In an effort to be inclusive to all races, (they) may be reaching out to non-whites,” she said.

    Love this. In an effort to include everyone we will be excluding whites.

    We should ask everyone for a comment. That way when someone tries to make it a big deal when white actors are specified for white parts their hypocrisy will be documented.

  5. Well professor, you just keep feeding the beasts with these posts. I’m sure somebody will say…”All actors matter” Then again, I would love to see Brad Pitt play MLK………..

  6. KCFleming writes,

    “Hamilton
    Subtitled: How liberals hate America, version 374.”

    How Pleasantville loves America just the way it is. Version: KCFleming.

  7. Mitch: “Oh and the story that Jefferson fathered a child with Sally Hemmings? Also a lie. The leftists that first made the accusation were even forced to publish a retraction on it.”

    I hadn’t heard this. Do you have a source/link?

    Didn’t Jefferson own the property rights to Hemmings under then-current law?

  8. Hamilton
    Subtitled: How liberals hate America, version 374.

    White women are now under attack, too.
    Southwestern University, a liberal arts college in a suburb of Austin, Texas, canceled a campus production of “The Vagina Monologues” because students felt the play placed too much emphasis on the vaginas of white women.

    Take 3 guesses how this all ends.
    Here’s my guess:

    from Kipling’s “The Wrath Of The Awakened Saxon”

    “It was not preached to the crowd.
    It was not taught by the state.
    No man spoke it aloud
    When the Saxon began to hate.

    It was not suddently bred.
    It will not swiftly abate.”

    But do enjoy the show.

  9. ps Sally Hemmings btw, was also if anything, White. She was 3/4 White. She was also Thomas Jeffersons sister in-law. She was the sister of Jeffersons deceased wife.

  10. Notice that the bad guy, the oppressive King, has to be played by a white man.

    Btw to those commenting about the Founding Fathers being slave owners, educate yourselves much further than the Progressive Cliff Notes version of American history. Jefferson and Madison for example both owned slaves. Yet both tried to outlaw slavery several times. Of anything, Jefferson and Madison should be admired by Black Americans for their attempts to free the slaves much earlier. The issue is much more in depth and complicated than leftist history teachers would have you believe.

    Oh and the story that Jefferson fathered a child with Sally Hemmings? Also a lie. The leftists that first made the accusation were even forced to publish a retraction on it. But the liberal media refused to cover that part of the story.

  11. Are they also going to avoid using period costumes or set designs? This casting call works fine if it were presented as an audio only production but the visual won’t be believable. If this play is about historical accuracy then the visual needs to match the script.

  12. Their marquee looks like the statue of Lenin. Some of us put Hamilton in the same category as Lenin anyway. Fitting, I guess, since they are using authoritarian types tactics.

  13. I wonder if they would hire a Cherokee. Can someone please ask. I can sing.

  14. I will take the notice at its word and not “attend” the play. One fourth of me might attend but I walk on two feet so that is unlikely.

  15. I’m fine with movies and plays restricting characters to certain races and genders, whether to reflect historical reality, or as a reinterpretation of history, or simply for artistic expression. Personally, I would only spend my money on a play or movie about Alexander Hamiliton that that was fairly historically accurate. But if the producer wants to cast Whoopi Goldberg as George Washington, it’s up to the customers to decide if they want to pay to see that interpretation.

    My only opposition to racial issues in art is the concept of affirmative-action, where actors are thought to be entitled to roles or awards (such as the Oscars) based on some numerical quota rather than artistic merit.

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