It's not every day that Lin-Manuel Miranda sends a handwritten thank-you note to a group of Fordham students. But students in Linda Goldberg's Texts & Contexts course on "The Immigrant Experience" were pleasantly surprised to hear from the author of Hamilton: The Musical last week.
Miranda changed the modern landscape with his dynamic reimagining of Alexander Hamilton's life. Hamilton is the story of America as a nation of immigrants, and proved a perfect complement to Professor Goldberg's course. In addition to reading various texts on immigration from various parts of the world, students were assigned to research their families' immigrant experiences and to present their findings to the class in a creative format.
According to Professor Goldberg, Hamilton proved inspirational in two ways: First, it could "demonstrate to students thad their own histories may produce unexpected riches and rewards in stories, family connections, research, and their own personal family record." Beyond that it gave students the opportunity "to examine the language of the authors studied." Goldberg challenged the group to "create a 'class' rap, inspired by [Miranda's] music to demonstrate the way rhyming language may be used to tell a story and be put to music."
Using the music of the now iconic opening number, "Alexander Hamilton," the students wrote bilingual lyrics about their studies and their family histories." Their version had the refrains "There's a million books we haven't read but just you wait" and "At Fordham you can be a success."
After recording the project, Professor Goldberg sent the finished product to the Richard Rogers Theatre, where Hamilton plays to a full house every night. To her and the students' delight, Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote a note to them, warmly expressing his gratitude:
Dear Students of Fordham,
Your Project was not only a brilliant concept but was also executed perfectly! the thought of inspiring such deep investigation into what an immigrant is is one of the most rewarding things to come out of Hamilton. Bravo!