Notes Toward an Essay on Imagining Thomas Jefferson Watching a Performance of the Musical “Hamilton”

Illustration by Ginnie Hsu.

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Notes Toward an Essay on Imagining Thomas Jefferson Watching a Performance of the Musical “Hamilton”

by Randall Kenan
Southern Cultures, Vol. 25, No. 2: Inside/Outside

"But he'd have to acknowledge that the soul of his country is southern; the soul of his country is black."

At elegant gatherings and august meetings, I often scan the room and wonder aloud why I am, as people like myself are often given to ask, the Only Negro in the Room, or ONR, as Ta-Nehisi Coates and Natasha Trethewey have been known to note. Surely black intellectuals are central to these types of inquiries, surely black writers and artists and thinkers have something to say in the matter. And yet our involvement tends to be relegated to the margins. And our attendance tends to be poor. Our work finds its way into the discussion, ’tis true. But to quote from the landmark 1965 play by Douglas Turner Ward, A Day of Absence: “Where the negras at?”

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