Monday, August 16, 2021

Andrew Porwancher's "The Jewish World of Alexander Hamilton"

A native of Princeton, New Jersey, Andrew Porwancher earned degrees from Brown and Northwestern before completing his PhD in history at Cambridge. Currently, he serves as the Wick Cary Associate Professor at the University of Oklahoma and the Ernest May Fellow at Harvard University’s Belfer Center.

Porwancher applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Jewish World of Alexander Hamilton, and reported the following:
My book offers readers two parallel narratives--the story of Alexander Hamilton and the story of American Jews in the early years of the republic--and page 99 offers excellent insight into the latter while leaving the former untouched. Using an example from Georgia, page 99 describes the persistence of longstanding antisemitism but also newfound resistance to prejudice. This defiance made Jews in the United States distinct from those back in the Old World. As I write on 99: "That Jews in America would petition for their rights and shame their antagonists set them apart from European Jews." American Jews, after all, had "hazarded death to establish a republic whose founding document championed equality." The Jewish fight to secure rights against the backdrop of religious bigotry lies at the center of page 99 and indeed the entire book. And yet nowhere does the name "Alexander Hamilton" appear on the page. My research suggests that Hamilton, in all likelihood, was born and raised Jewish in the Caribbean. Although he did not identify as such in his American adulthood, still Hamilton formed an important relationship with the American Jewish community. Indeed, Hamilton did more than any other founding father to make the promise of equality real for America’s Jews. It is those points of intersection—between the story that 99 nods to and the story that 99 doesn’t—which my book seeks to bring to light for the first time.
Visit Andrew Porwancher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue