Episode 100

Chris Jackson of Hamilton on Broadway for our 100th episode

🎙 Warning: These new shirts may cause history-inspired travel

Full video version of Interview

In the 100th episode of 'Talk with History', hosts Scott and Jenn celebrate this milestone by inviting Christopher Jackson, known for his role as George Washington in 'Hamilton', to discuss his career, passion for history, and the portrayal of historical figures.

Jackson shares his journey from first thoughts on portraying George Washington to deeply researching the role and visiting historical sites like Mount Vernon and Valley Forge. The conversation also explores the complexity of historical figures, the impact of 'Hamilton' on public interest in history, and the importance of truth in historical storytelling.

Jackson hints at his future projects, including a historical drama on the Pullman porters and the upcoming 10th anniversary of 'Hamilton'.

0:00 Interview with Chris Jackson of Hamilton

00:55 The Iconic Role of George Washington in Hamilton

01:55 A Special Connection Through History and Music

03:09 Exploring Personal Histories and the Impact of Hamilton

04:36 The Importance of Historical Locations and Personal Reflections

04:49 Diving Deep into the Role of George Washington

09:11 The Personal Journey of Christopher Jackson

10:47 Learning History Through Different Lenses

11:51 The Influence of Family and Early Education on Historical Perspective

16:25 Exploring Ancestry and the Great Migration

20:08 Preparing for the role of George Washington

27:12 Personal Stories and Historical Events That Shape Us

29:06 A Trip Down Memory Lane: Age and Memories

29:30 Historical Reflections: The Challenger Disaster and Valley Forge

30:01 The Complexity of Historical Figures: Washington's Dual Legacy

32:16 The Evolution of Historical Understanding

33:05 Revisiting Mount Vernon: A Changed Perspective

34:20 The Power of History and Storytelling

38:32 History is always there

42:33 Inspiration to learn history

48:15 A Look Ahead: Future Projects and Reflections

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Transcript
Chris Jackson:

And then, the second part of your question.

Chris Jackson:

No, I had never given any thought ever to portraying George Washington.

Chris Jackson:

I had seen probably the few movies were made for TV movies that they had made.

Scott:

Welcome to talk with history.

Scott:

I am your host, Scott, here with my wife and historian, Jenn.

Scott:

Hello.

Scott:

On this podcast, we give you insights to our history inspired, both travels,

Scott:

YouTube channel journey, and examine history through deeper conversations

Scott:

with the curious, the explorers, and the history lovers out there.

Scott:

Now, Jenn, this is our hundredth episode.

Scott:

We've been doing this for a couple of years now, and we have a very

Scott:

special guest joining us today.

Scott:

So we.

Scott:

Really have a guest who needs no introduction, but I'm

Scott:

going to give him one anyways.

Scott:

He originated the iconic role of George Washington in the groundbreaking

Scott:

musical phenomenon, Hamilton, his powerful vocals and nuanced performance

Scott:

captivated audiences worldwide.

Scott:

And his portrayal of the first president sparked important

Scott:

conversations about history.

Scott:

From there, he only picked up steam, continuing on his career on the

Scott:

silver screen of television and I'm making his career very, very

Scott:

short, but most importantly, the most important thing about our guest

Scott:

is he has a passion for history.

Scott:

So welcome, Mr.

Scott:

Christopher Jackson.

Scott:

Thank you so much for joining us on talk with history tonight.

Chris Jackson:

Thank you for having me.

Chris Jackson:

Happy 100th.

Scott:

Thank you so much.

Scott:

this

Chris Jackson:

What a, milestone.

Scott:

a, this is a great milestone for us.

Scott:

Especially kind of bootstrapping a podcast in our living room whenever we can.

Scott:

So thank you so much for joining us and, we're really happy to have you.

Scott:

just so people know kind of how we got connected with, with you we'll

Scott:

kind of tell our audience Hey, how the heck did you guys get connected

Scott:

with, with Christopher Jackson?

Scott:

Yeah,

Jenn:

it was honestly, Chris, it was amazing experience for me.

Jenn:

I am even wearing my history has its eyes on you t shirt.

Chris Jackson:

I love

Jenn:

was driving back from a friend's house in Uniontown, Pennsylvania,

Jenn:

and I was driving past Fort Necessity, which if you know the

Jenn:

song, history has its eyes on you.

Jenn:

George Washington is talking, I'm, I'm younger than you are

Jenn:

now given my first command.

Jenn:

So I stopped there and I just did those lines real quick.

Jenn:

And I talked about what George Washington is talking about learning

Jenn:

in that moment and how lucky he is to learn because he didn't get killed.

Jenn:

And he didn't lose his command, which were two things that

Jenn:

probably should have happened.

Jenn:

And so he, he's talking about how lucky he got in that moment and how he's

Jenn:

trying to teach that to Hamilton, that you don't always get to learn from your

Jenn:

mistakes, but if you do like really bring it, take it on and, and, and change,

Jenn:

people's lives for the, what you learn.

Jenn:

And you had reached out, you saw that reel and you said you never

Jenn:

got a chance to visit it before.

Jenn:

You.

Jenn:

Took the role, but then you and then you said you were a fan of

Jenn:

mine, and I almost lost my mind

Chris Jackson:

Sure.

Chris Jackson:

I mean, you guys, I mean, it's so cool.

Chris Jackson:

I grew up in Southern Illinois, so being, that's, I grew up

Chris Jackson:

in, I was born in Metropolis, Illinois, inside of Fort Massac.

Chris Jackson:

So, when I was, When I was young, they had they had two pair of Buffalo, like

Chris Jackson:

actual Buffalo that they had in a small pen that you could drive down and just

Chris Jackson:

park and watch the Buffalo sort of graze in a, in a, in a paddock, if you

Chris Jackson:

could call it, that was so small, but Fort Massach and in, and then later

Chris Jackson:

I moved to Cairo, which was, Which is at the southernmost point of Illinois.

Chris Jackson:

So there's a lot of history baked into and into that area,

Chris Jackson:

especially around the civil war.

Chris Jackson:

And so for, for me, it was just always so intriguing to know that, General

Chris Jackson:

Grant stated Magnolia manor, the cupola, because there was no other tall buildings,

Chris Jackson:

he could see the confluence of the rivers and blah, blah, like it was just

Chris Jackson:

always that's, that's where I learned.

Chris Jackson:

I got into the arts because I think of my interest and passion for history.

Chris Jackson:

It was just.

Chris Jackson:

Always.

Chris Jackson:

So the humanity of it was always the most

Chris Jackson:

Oh, of

Jenn:

course.

Chris Jackson:

And so, so watching you walk through Fort necessity and it looked

Chris Jackson:

very much like a Fort Massac or Fort Defiance, like all of these sort of, you

Chris Jackson:

could still see the, the, the, the dirt from the readouts, but it was, it was nice

Chris Jackson:

to know it was really cool to know that.

Chris Jackson:

Real people built those things and a hundred and some ideas later, they're

Chris Jackson:

still here and there was significant.

Chris Jackson:

And why were there significant?

Chris Jackson:

And then, then you dig and then it's, it's, you walk through

Chris Jackson:

just like what you're doing.

Chris Jackson:

And I think that's

Jenn:

Yeah That was like that's the whole importance of the channel is

Jenn:

to take you to the location Like walk you through history Like I wanted you

Jenn:

to see what it was like and to stand in the footsteps of those history

Jenn:

makers Like what were they seeing?

Jenn:

What were they thinking?

Jenn:

So when you were first approached to plage George, Washington

Jenn:

Washington what was your reaction?

Jenn:

What did you know about him?

Jenn:

And how did you feel about portraying that person in history?

Chris Jackson:

Honestly I found out.

Chris Jackson:

About the project that Lynn was doing.

Chris Jackson:

I, I want to say somewhere like in 2011 ish or 2010, excuse me, we were

Chris Jackson:

still doing in the Heights on Broadway.

Chris Jackson:

And so the first, the first, I've told the story the first time I heard

Chris Jackson:

anything about it, Lynn had come back for vacation and he had talked to Tommy

Chris Jackson:

and, and he bought this biography, which, there's a picture of him in a

Chris Jackson:

hammock or a floaty in a pool somewhere in the Caribbean where he was reading

Chris Jackson:

this book and he was really intrigued.

Chris Jackson:

And, when we started Heights Tommy and Lynn and I were all reading a

Chris Jackson:

team of rivals at the same time.

Chris Jackson:

It's just sort of, Tommy was like, read this.

Chris Jackson:

And I was like, Oh yeah.

Chris Jackson:

And it was of course a page turner

Chris Jackson:

for those of you that have read it.

Chris Jackson:

and w it was fantastic.

Chris Jackson:

And we all just we love a good read.

Chris Jackson:

We're always intrigued.

Chris Jackson:

But the fact that he found, this idea for a show he, we were actually on stage

Chris Jackson:

and performance when he told me about it, like it was in the middle of the

Chris Jackson:

show, in the first act of in the Heights.

Chris Jackson:

Well, so the inside of Broadway, right?

Chris Jackson:

You you have moments when you're upstage and there's at that time, there's a

Chris Jackson:

number that's going on in front of us, but we're sort of like in character,

Chris Jackson:

but we're up in, kind of in the dark and that's when we, would catch up on the

Chris Jackson:

day or whatever, tell a joke, whatever.

Chris Jackson:

But we had, we had three and a half minutes to just talk and

Chris Jackson:

it, it built into the show.

Chris Jackson:

nobody knew what we're talking about.

Chris Jackson:

And, the famous, the, the, the sort of the notable thing is he, he looks at me,

Chris Jackson:

we're Right before we're about to go out into the, like the big first act number.

Chris Jackson:

And he's I think I got my next thing.

Chris Jackson:

And I'm like, what?

Chris Jackson:

He's yeah, it's something about the treasury.

Chris Jackson:

Say it's a hip hop concept album about the treasury secretary.

Chris Jackson:

And then off we went I mean, it was literally that quick.

Chris Jackson:

I didn't think anything of it.

Chris Jackson:

I don't know how much time passed between that moment and the next conversation

Chris Jackson:

we had about it, but at some point Tommy Kail approaches me, I'm on stage

Chris Jackson:

doing my warm up before the show.

Chris Jackson:

And he's coming across the stage, Tommy Kail, our director, and

Chris Jackson:

he said, Hey, what's up G dubs.

Chris Jackson:

And I'm like, what?

Chris Jackson:

you just

Scott:

threw it out there.

Chris Jackson:

What?

Chris Jackson:

Well, yeah.

Chris Jackson:

Yeah.

Chris Jackson:

I mean, and they had

Chris Jackson:

the idea, these are my

Chris Jackson:

best

Jenn:

Sure.

Jenn:

So you

Chris Jackson:

the shorthand the shorthand is real, but he was like,

Chris Jackson:

Hey, I didn't audition for it.

Chris Jackson:

That was the purpose was to have me do.

Chris Jackson:

The role.

Chris Jackson:

So that's the first time that I kind of like it started to cook for me.

Chris Jackson:

And then, the second part of your question.

Chris Jackson:

No, I had never given any thought ever to portraying George Washington.

Chris Jackson:

I had seen probably the few movies were made for TV movies that they had made.

Chris Jackson:

And, and sort of, it's, it was always sort of a version of of these, these very lofty

Chris Jackson:

upstanding men who were just sort of like a, a step away from, from the statues.

Chris Jackson:

The marble busts or the portraits and the whole idea behind the casting of of

Chris Jackson:

Hamilton was to to change them enough that that folks would see them in a in a human

Chris Jackson:

way and that we as actors would be able to portray them in a very human way and

Chris Jackson:

and the given circumstances that we were.

Chris Jackson:

Given in the script and in the score would, would then

Chris Jackson:

motivate us to move through.

Chris Jackson:

And then everything that I based Washington on was really based on

Chris Jackson:

just the, what I knew and what I was able to research respectfully about

Chris Jackson:

what is it that stands a soldier up?

Chris Jackson:

What are the things that are important to, to a soldier?

Chris Jackson:

And, and, and then one step beyond that, an officer, Washington

Chris Jackson:

certainly did not come by.

Chris Jackson:

By merit in the way that we understand it, right?

Chris Jackson:

He came, but there were a lot of different things that contributed

Chris Jackson:

to him taking that, that command.

Chris Jackson:

But we were the same age when he assumed command of, of the army

Chris Jackson:

outside of Boston and our show opened and I became George Washington.

Chris Jackson:

So I, I, I tried to figure out the things that we, that we did have in common.

Chris Jackson:

He had a lot of, a lot, most of much of his life was defined

Chris Jackson:

by loss in his early life.

Chris Jackson:

His father was gone, his older brother died, and his best friend

Chris Jackson:

all died by the time he was 16.

Chris Jackson:

And that defined much of what, and the rest of it was aspirational.

Chris Jackson:

Who's more aspirational

Chris Jackson:

than an actor?

Jenn:

that's true.

Chris Jackson:

My father was not a, was not a presence in my life, but I

Chris Jackson:

was fortunate to have really strong and wonderful mentors that, that came

Chris Jackson:

through and kicked me when I needed it, and lifted me up when I needed it.

Chris Jackson:

Gave me guidance and the rest of it.

Chris Jackson:

I just kind of figured out on my own at, 18 in New York studying acting.

Chris Jackson:

So it was the confluence of, of, understanding what leadership meant,

Chris Jackson:

what and, and what appearances.

Chris Jackson:

Mean,

Chris Jackson:

right?

Chris Jackson:

And then incorporating

Jenn:

No, Chris, what I love about that is George Washington was a big risk

Jenn:

taker and he had a lot of aspirations for himself and you, you found that as

Jenn:

a commonality, one of the things I loved about Hamilton and I saw Hamilton 2018.

Jenn:

like third row.

Jenn:

It's a funny story behind it.

Jenn:

But Scott gave me like this Christmas present and he was like,

Jenn:

I'm going to get you to Hamilton.

Jenn:

I'm going to find a way to get you to Hamilton.

Jenn:

At the time we lived in Tennessee too.

Jenn:

So it was funny.

Jenn:

But when I went for the first showing George Washington was,

Jenn:

and you're a man of color.

Jenn:

George Washington was played by African American man.

Jenn:

You're African American.

Jenn:

I loved that and for me to see a man of color play Washington,

Jenn:

men of color built Washington.

Jenn:

George Washington is standing on the shoulders of men of color.

Jenn:

And so to see a man of color play him, I thought it was.

Jenn:

Perfect.

Jenn:

I really did.

Chris Jackson:

It's what I think about when I go there.

Jenn:

Yeah.

Chris Jackson:

It's what I think about when I see the Washington Monument.

Chris Jackson:

I, I, I mean, I, I'm there and I'm in Washington eight to 10 times a year.

Chris Jackson:

I literally think about it every

Jenn:

That's amazing.

Scott:

One of the things that we like to ask, ask folks when we talk to them

Scott:

about history is, and you kind of actually already touched on it, was, How we

Scott:

all tend to learn history, even though it's the same, we learn it a little

Scott:

differently, we learn it through our own lens, we learn it depending on what part

Scott:

of the country we live in and we've, the more we've been online and kind of doing

Scott:

walks with history and talks with history and meeting other people from around the

Scott:

country talking about the same historical event, we'll all say oh, that's not what

Scott:

I learned when I was younger, that's not what I focused on when I was younger.

Scott:

So.

Scott:

When it came to that for you, you said you were from, from Illinois,

Scott:

when it, whether it came to, to

Chris Jackson:

Southern Illinois.

Chris Jackson:

Huge distinction.

Chris Jackson:

Huge distinction.

Scott:

For, for you kind of growing up in Southern Illinois, what do you remember?

Scott:

You kind of had a little bit of a passion, semi early on, what are some of the things

Scott:

you remember from, from your childhood?

Scott:

That was focused on in, in your neck of the woods where you

Scott:

were growing up in Illinois.

Chris Jackson:

So first I would say that.

Chris Jackson:

Most of my historical education, both in, in school and, and just sort of in,

Chris Jackson:

in the local zeitgeist was kind of the, I'd like to say a holdover from the great

Chris Jackson:

sort of propaganda moment in history.

Chris Jackson:

We've got a, we've probably got a good 65, 70 year span where Our nationalist

Chris Jackson:

identity, especially I think leading up to the decades leading up to, and then

Chris Jackson:

when we finally arrived in 1975 and it's the centennial and it's just sort of

Chris Jackson:

like, so you're, I was born and it's it was like, I think at its greatest, the,

Chris Jackson:

at the Zenith of everybody kind of, dug in and that became the curriculum, right?

Chris Jackson:

It's we kind of codified.

Chris Jackson:

All of the things, all of the, like the blatant lies that historians

Chris Jackson:

knew, but didn't want to burn.

Chris Jackson:

It's almost as if they didn't want to burden children with the truth.

Chris Jackson:

If as if, as if that wasn't, if, as if the truth wasn't already interesting

Chris Jackson:

enough, I think that it was sort of a wash in slogan and I don't want to say

Chris Jackson:

propaganda as if, as if it's not, I don't want to be Pollyannish about it.

Chris Jackson:

Propaganda is a huge part of how governments.

Chris Jackson:

Support themselves and the public and, and, and make things easier for

Chris Jackson:

the, the greater amount of people to learn the population to learn and,

Chris Jackson:

and sort of hold on to I had the benefit of being raised very early on.

Chris Jackson:

My mom was still finishing her teaching degree.

Chris Jackson:

When I was, I think she, when I was like five or six, so the first six years of

Chris Jackson:

my life, the real formative years, we spent a lot of time with my grandparents

Chris Jackson:

who were both black entrepreneurs.

Chris Jackson:

They came out of sort of that the Booker T.

Chris Jackson:

Washington sort of like bootstrap, go to technical school, get a trade.

Chris Jackson:

They were, they own funeral funeral homes Jackson funeral homes.

Chris Jackson:

And they, they were.

Chris Jackson:

Self made.

Chris Jackson:

It's not even doesn't really begin to describe them.

Chris Jackson:

They were old enough that the old ways were still very much an everyday thing.

Chris Jackson:

So I remember my grandmother making her own, washing powder out of lye soap

Chris Jackson:

and our, our body soap was lye soap.

Chris Jackson:

And I used to cut the, get to cut the blocks of lye, soap like

Chris Jackson:

that was all a part of my life.

Chris Jackson:

And then on my mom's side of the family, they were all farmers.

Chris Jackson:

And so, I, I grew up, I spent half my time with my, with my father's

Chris Jackson:

parent, my father, some of my paternal grandparents, and then with my maternal

Chris Jackson:

grandparents, they were very much farmers.

Chris Jackson:

It was, they lived in and around and on the land.

Chris Jackson:

And so I got that education as well.

Chris Jackson:

I mention that because culturally and historically, both of my

Chris Jackson:

grandparents placed a great deal of importance on understanding what.

Chris Jackson:

I was a part of and where I came from.

Chris Jackson:

So I was ever aware of the importance of knowing who and how the civil, how exactly

Chris Jackson:

the civil rights movement not only came to be, but was sustained and how it was.

Chris Jackson:

Changing shape.

Chris Jackson:

I remember watching Jesse Jackson at the democratic convention.

Chris Jackson:

I remember his, I am somebody speech.

Chris Jackson:

I was watching it.

Chris Jackson:

I remember those moments and they were codified because my grandparents set me

Chris Jackson:

down and explained it to me in real time.

Chris Jackson:

I was four or five years old, you know what I mean?

Chris Jackson:

So those kinds of things, like I always had a sense of what was happening in the

Chris Jackson:

world and what I, not only what my place was in it, but what was expected of me.

Chris Jackson:

Yeah.

Chris Jackson:

As a citizen, as a black man, as someone who was through, through my

Chris Jackson:

life circumstances, forced to move between both sides of my family.

Chris Jackson:

And it's still in, in, in a still very segregated.

Chris Jackson:

Emotionally and mentally part of the country.

Chris Jackson:

And so I learned how to code switch.

Chris Jackson:

I learned how to go along to get along.

Chris Jackson:

I learned how to push slightly and softly.

Chris Jackson:

I learned how to push loudly and, and not so not, not without with a lot of

Chris Jackson:

nuance and it was a great benefit to me.

Chris Jackson:

So as I moved through, my schooling.

Chris Jackson:

History made sense because I had already received an education of foundation in

Chris Jackson:

that and taught how important it was.

Chris Jackson:

I always took, I always took history very seriously, second only to music.

Chris Jackson:

That was, that's just how it had that and lunch, but that's how it kind

Chris Jackson:

of, that's how it kind of formed.

Chris Jackson:

That's how it kind of formed me.

Chris Jackson:

And I, and I I've, I've been ever grateful especially in this Hamilton

Chris Jackson:

experience, because I felt I was.

Chris Jackson:

Primed already to understand the context of it, and really play it with commitment.

Chris Jackson:

That was the,

Jenn:

It's the two things you love.

Jenn:

Now your paternal grandparents, your African American grandparents, were

Jenn:

they part of the great migration?

Jenn:

Did they?

Jenn:

Were there families from the South?

Chris Jackson:

So this is the funny story that I meant to tell you.

Chris Jackson:

I promise I'll give you the short, shorter answer than the last two.

Chris Jackson:

So my wife and I get on ancestry.

Chris Jackson:

com the other night.

Chris Jackson:

I have avoided it.

Chris Jackson:

I have avoided it.

Chris Jackson:

I have avoided it.

Chris Jackson:

My last name, there's not a lot of touch points that are, that are positive,

Chris Jackson:

but it turns out that we're in the same bloodline as, as, as old Andy.

Chris Jackson:

Which is crazy to me.

Chris Jackson:

He and his wife didn't have kids, but his his parents are, are in

Chris Jackson:

my family's bloodline is crazy.

Jenn:

you got to come to Tennessee then.

Jenn:

That means you got to come to the hermitage.

Chris Jackson:

But, but then go back even further because John Jackson, who was

Chris Jackson:

a captain in back in the colonies was a member of the, the Prince Phillips war.

Chris Jackson:

Who was also, I mean, that whole anti native American thing runs all the way.

Chris Jackson:

There's two genocidal maniacs in my family tree.

Chris Jackson:

And I'm like, yo, this is, this is nuts.

Chris Jackson:

But so we're, so cool.

Chris Jackson:

Yes, they were a part of the great migration.

Chris Jackson:

One of the reasons why they both went to mortuary school was from the Booker T.

Chris Jackson:

Washington sort of bootstraps, a talented 10th kind of ideal.

Chris Jackson:

And, on my, on my grandparents back parlor, there were four

Chris Jackson:

portraits hanging on the wall.

Chris Jackson:

There was, there was a black Jesus Christ.

Chris Jackson:

There was Martin Luther King jr.

Chris Jackson:

And there was Mary McLeod Bethune and there was Booker T.

Chris Jackson:

Washington.

Chris Jackson:

They were very much.

Chris Jackson:

I mean, that was, that was the back wall of their parlor.

Chris Jackson:

And so growing up and seeing and knowing that, My, My, every, it's

Chris Jackson:

every generation prior to mine, each, each couple had like at least

Chris Jackson:

nine kids, every single generation.

Chris Jackson:

it's it's insane.

Chris Jackson:

But they, they were mostly from the northeast northeast Arkansas area.

Chris Jackson:

I mean the, the, the northern east most corner right next to Memphis.

Chris Jackson:

So they weren't really that far from where they mostly settled,

Chris Jackson:

which was Metropolis and, and Cairo.

Chris Jackson:

But it was all close to the river, and I grew up going to Memphis.

Chris Jackson:

Going to mud Island.

Chris Jackson:

And, I was there, I was there when the, when the, the Memphis bell movie

Chris Jackson:

had come out and they had nine B 17s.

Chris Jackson:

I was

Chris Jackson:

Oh my gosh.

Chris Jackson:

Oh, no

Scott:

way.

Chris Jackson:

I got, I got sprayed in oil that yell.

Chris Jackson:

Yeah, it was amazing.

Chris Jackson:

I

Jenn:

We do a whole video on Mary McLeod Bethune.

Jenn:

We go to her house.

Jenn:

We talk about the 6888.

Jenn:

It's really cool.

Jenn:

She's very important.

Jenn:

An amazing story.

Jenn:

Amazing story.

Jenn:

Burger T.

Jenn:

Washington actually went to school here outside of Norfolk.

Jenn:

He went to Hampton University right here out of Norfolk.

Jenn:

So a lot of, we're, we're crisscrossing the history here.

Jenn:

It's pretty cool.

Chris Jackson:

Yeah.

Chris Jackson:

And we're talking about huge schools

Chris Jackson:

of thought too.

Chris Jackson:

Like I'm more of a Dubois I, I, I relate more to what.

Chris Jackson:

W B Dubois, his, his sort

Chris Jackson:

of philosophy, but I, I've read Booker T and I understand both.

Chris Jackson:

I understand that how, how those, how they both collided diverged

Chris Jackson:

and then came back together.

Chris Jackson:

There's a lot of ideas in those moments in those, in that period

Chris Jackson:

of time that still influences us today, though, you've had, you had to

Chris Jackson:

have read it in order to really

Chris Jackson:

understand it.

Chris Jackson:

But

Jenn:

it's a lot.

Jenn:

Have you

Chris Jackson:

It is a lot,

Jenn:

like a thousand pages.

Jenn:

I told my

Chris Jackson:

I've got the first and I have the first and the second edition.

Jenn:

like, I took a radical African American class.

Jenn:

I said, that's what's radical.

Jenn:

The length of this book.

Jenn:

He started laughing.

Chris Jackson:

Oh my God.

Chris Jackson:

Yeah, I tried to get through his, his Philadelphia not experiment the, the,

Chris Jackson:

the, the treaties he wrote on, on black folks in Philadelphia, which was

Chris Jackson:

like, it was almost like Deuteronomy.

Chris Jackson:

I was like, I'm, I'm doing my best,

Jenn:

so, when you found out you were playing George Washington, what,

Jenn:

did you go to any historic places?

Jenn:

Did you read any books?

Jenn:

What movies did you watch?

Jenn:

Or were you just I'm just going to make it my own.

Jenn:

I'm going to find my own way here.

Chris Jackson:

The day that Tommy walked up to me and explained to me

Chris Jackson:

why he called me G dubs, which was like, I think it was later that day.

Chris Jackson:

Actually, I went to the borders after the show.

Chris Jackson:

I went down to Madison Square Garden.

Chris Jackson:

There was a borders there on 34th street and I bought Ron

Chris Jackson:

Chernow's biography on Washington.

Chris Jackson:

And from that moment till the time that I left Hamilton, I think I made

Chris Jackson:

it through that book seven times.

Chris Jackson:

So that was my Bible pretty much for the first time.

Chris Jackson:

It was the first time in my career that I had been given an opportunity to truly

Chris Jackson:

research And the, the important part that I found really early on was that, it's not

Chris Jackson:

called Washington, it's called Hamilton.

Chris Jackson:

So we only really see Washington when his movements intersect with Hamilton's.

Chris Jackson:

So what became super important was knowing exactly what, what was happening with

Chris Jackson:

Washington the moment before he sees.

Chris Jackson:

Hamilton, the moment before he comes into a scene and knowing what he

Chris Jackson:

was going into was really important.

Chris Jackson:

So, if you're watching the movie or have you seen the show, like when Washington

Chris Jackson:

makes his first appearance, it's during my shot, it's during the end of my shot.

Chris Jackson:

Now, those moments didn't exactly line up, but then, but they intersect

Chris Jackson:

in that Washington does go into.

Chris Jackson:

New York.

Chris Jackson:

And he does see these, these rabble rousers down in the town square.

Chris Jackson:

He sees all of that right before he almost loses his entire

Chris Jackson:

army in battle of Brooklyn.

Chris Jackson:

So like in a series of retreats, right?

Chris Jackson:

So, but it was really important for me to know what he went

Chris Jackson:

through in Boston, Mm hmm.

Chris Jackson:

how everyone was calling it a victory.

Chris Jackson:

And he was consumed with the fact that it.

Chris Jackson:

It wasn't a, it wasn't a sound victory that, that he almost, again, at every

Chris Jackson:

turn, especially in the first, like two and a half years, three years

Chris Jackson:

of the, of the, the, the war, he was close to losing his army, like Mm hmm.

Chris Jackson:

And I think not only was he, from his papers and writings, like I get

Chris Jackson:

the sense that he was as equally concerned about the welfare of the

Chris Jackson:

army and his reputation, because.

Chris Jackson:

Posterity was so important.

Chris Jackson:

So it's like I even and even in the telling of this story, it's important

Chris Jackson:

to me to know that, even though we don't really discuss any specific things

Chris Jackson:

like he's not just worried about losing the battle, he's worried about losing

Chris Jackson:

his livelihood and his reputation too.

Chris Jackson:

And those are at times equally motivating

Chris Jackson:

Absolutely.

Chris Jackson:

Yeah.

Chris Jackson:

And I think that, so to ask the question or to answer the question,

Chris Jackson:

like those humanizing moments.

Chris Jackson:

Because it's not, that's not a glorious, honorable thing to be

Chris Jackson:

worried about your reputation.

Scott:

Yeah.

Scott:

Yes.

Scott:

It's a very human thing.

Chris Jackson:

But, and for the guy who has to play him, it's really

Chris Jackson:

important to know that that's a part of, that's a part of it.

Chris Jackson:

You know what I mean?

Chris Jackson:

And so all of those moments, the way that they intersect, become

Chris Jackson:

really, really, really important.

Chris Jackson:

I did get to go to I got to go to Mount Vernon.

Chris Jackson:

The folks at Mount Vernon were incredibly gracious.

Chris Jackson:

We were filming a doc as we were preparing for the, the, the show.

Chris Jackson:

And so I got to go, we got to Mount Vernon about three o'clock in the afternoon.

Chris Jackson:

It was a coldest November day.

Chris Jackson:

I think I've ever experienced in my life.

Chris Jackson:

I think it was November, but it was, it was bone rattling cold, but we

Chris Jackson:

were there until nine 30 that night.

Chris Jackson:

Oh,

Jenn:

cool.

Chris Jackson:

the place down.

Chris Jackson:

We got a private tour.

Chris Jackson:

We got access to some things that the public generally don't get to see,

Chris Jackson:

but that they still show that house without a fireplace going is, is wow.

Jenn:

Freezing.

Jenn:

Mm hmm.

Chris Jackson:

it's

Chris Jackson:

terrible.

Jenn:

Yeah.

Chris Jackson:

Yeah.

Chris Jackson:

And I got to go to Valley

Chris Jackson:

Forge.

Jenn:

Yay.

Chris Jackson:

Mm I had never been there after being on the East Coast

Chris Jackson:

for, 30 years, I'd never been there.

Chris Jackson:

I had no idea that the grounds were the size that they were.

Chris Jackson:

In Illinois, we celebrate Pulaski Day.

Chris Jackson:

My family lives in Alexander and Pulaski County.

Chris Jackson:

So I but to be able to, to see his quarters.

Chris Jackson:

The vastness of, of, of that space and the, the, just the stories

Chris Jackson:

that the ground will tell you.

Chris Jackson:

And the proximity to Gettysburg was striking to me, this last this last

Chris Jackson:

summer I gave an appearance at Dickinson college and then had, had another

Chris Jackson:

gig with with the U S army orchestra.

Chris Jackson:

And so I drove from Dickinson and PA to DC, and I'd never made that drive before.

Chris Jackson:

And we drove, I drove, Within 10 miles of the Gettysburg grounds.

Chris Jackson:

And I was like, wow,

Chris Jackson:

It's just the way that it was just very striking.

Chris Jackson:

And because you guys spent a lot of time on the road, obviously the fact

Chris Jackson:

that those pivotal moments were to our country were so close together is both

Chris Jackson:

like heartbreaking and just ironic.

Chris Jackson:

You know what I mean?

Chris Jackson:

It was, it

Chris Jackson:

was really

Jenn:

It really was.

Jenn:

And I, I just went to Valley Forge myself.

Jenn:

I went to Washington's headquarters.

Jenn:

You went on a cold day in um, to Mount Vernon.

Jenn:

I went on a freezing cold day in December to Valley Forge.

Jenn:

And I, it kind of reminiscent of the army freezing.

Jenn:

there in December anyway, and I got to be alone in Washington's headquarters

Jenn:

because no one was there that day.

Jenn:

And they told me all the stories about Washington being there and being with

Jenn:

all of his aides, including Hamilton.

Chris Jackson:

With Hamilton downstairs in the park, in that

Chris Jackson:

little room, that little tiny room piled with papers and close Yeah.

Jenn:

they were like, Washington touched bannister in Washington.

Jenn:

So, and then they told me Martha came and moved and stayed with them.

Jenn:

And I said, did they share a wall with his aides?

Jenn:

And they're like, yeah, I'm like, if I was a Martha, the first thing I

Jenn:

would be is like, push this bed away

Chris Jackson:

from the Yep.

Chris Jackson:

Yep.

Chris Jackson:

Yep.

Chris Jackson:

Aren't the aren't the Rangers.

Chris Jackson:

They're amazing

Chris Jackson:

though.

Chris Jackson:

Like it was, they are so engaged and, and, and know so much.

Chris Jackson:

It's, it's really, it's a really cool.

Chris Jackson:

It makes it so much, so much just more awesome to get that

Chris Jackson:

kind

Chris Jackson:

of, you

Chris Jackson:

know,

Jenn:

And you can feel it.

Jenn:

I always say you can feel the history.

Jenn:

Like I could.

Jenn:

I, to be in the space of where it happened, it was just

Jenn:

really amazing to be there.

Jenn:

So it's great that you got to go to, to the, both of those um, but you

Jenn:

still haven't been to Fort necessity.

Jenn:

So we, you have to

Chris Jackson:

no, no.

Chris Jackson:

But I'm going to, I'm going to starred on my map.

Chris Jackson:

And now that I know that, that it's not quite as far West as I thought it was.

Chris Jackson:

Yeah.

Chris Jackson:

I don't do a lot of cross country traveling, driving anymore, but yeah,

Chris Jackson:

I'll, I know I'll, I'll find my, I'll make

Chris Jackson:

my way out there

Chris Jackson:

for

Jenn:

Yeah, like a Pittsburgh trip.

Jenn:

When you go to Pittsburgh, it's a

Jenn:

good.

Jenn:

And if you want to visit uh, the United flight 93, it's kind of close

Jenn:

to that memorial is where so it's, it's

Jenn:

kind of, yes, exactly in Shanksville.

Scott:

Yeah.

Scott:

So, so I, I love to kind of you know, away from, from the shows.

Scott:

I love the personal stories when I get to talk to people on the One of the things

Scott:

that I've enjoyed, I joke all the time.

Scott:

Um, And and for folks who are who are new to the podcast is I'm

Scott:

actually not the history buff, right?

Scott:

Jenn's the history nerd.

Scott:

I kind of married into this and I have, I have learned a

Scott:

lot since we started walk with

Chris Jackson:

I bet.

Chris Jackson:

I bet.

Scott:

so much.

Scott:

I can, I, I sound so much smarter than I used to.

Scott:

, But one of the things that, that, that we love to ask on talk with history,

Scott:

again, different people, different perspectives , is what's the, kind

Scott:

of the first major historical event that you remember from your childhood.

Scott:

That kind of first moment where that that that bubble was really kind of broken

Scott:

because when you're young, you're kind of, for lack of a better word, it's all you.

Scott:

You're the center of your own universe.

Scott:

And then there's that one event That everybody remembers and all of

Scott:

a sudden they're like, Oh my gosh, the world is, is a bigger place.

Scott:

Something happened.

Scott:

That's major.

Scott:

It's that flagpole moment in your life.

Scott:

For some people, it's personal.

Scott:

For me, it was, I'm from California, so it was a major earthquake, right?

Scott:

When the A's and the giants had that, that um, during the

Chris Jackson:

I was watching.

Chris Jackson:

Yeah.

Chris Jackson:

I was watching the

Scott:

so, so what's something like that for, for you,

Chris Jackson:

probably

Chris Jackson:

probably the challenger

Chris Jackson:

because Krista McAuliffe was from

Chris Jackson:

Kentucky

Scott:

yeah.

Scott:

Oh,

Chris Jackson:

and where in Kentucky she was from.

Chris Jackson:

I don't quite remember, but like where I was growing up, Kentucky

Chris Jackson:

was right across the river.

Chris Jackson:

So she may as may, may as well have just been living on the

Chris Jackson:

other side of the bridge there.

Chris Jackson:

And we were all watching it.

Chris Jackson:

They had wheeled the wheel, the TVs into, the cafeteria, the classroom.

Chris Jackson:

We were in a classroom.

Chris Jackson:

Yeah.

Chris Jackson:

Yeah, that was, I think, the first, probably, yeah, that first moment where

Chris Jackson:

the world changed a little bit for,

Jenn:

Yeah.

Jenn:

So, so I didn't answer

Jenn:

because you and I are close to the same age, Chris.

Jenn:

I was born in 77.

Jenn:

I'm older than Scott.

Jenn:

I call myself a Puma.

Jenn:

I'm not a full cougar.

Jenn:

I'm only five years older, but so I didn't want to

Chris Jackson:

You're, you're, you're only

Chris Jackson:

bragging on Scott's taste.

Chris Jackson:

It's all good.

Chris Jackson:

It's all good.

Chris Jackson:

Your life does not suck, Scott.

Chris Jackson:

Yes.

Chris Jackson:

This we can

Jenn:

I didn't want to like taint it because that's the

Jenn:

first thing I remember too.

Jenn:

Same thing.

Jenn:

I remember them willing in the televisions.

Jenn:

I remember it exploding, but they're not, didn't say that's what happened.

Jenn:

I remember my

Chris Jackson:

Yeah.

Chris Jackson:

The confusion of it.

Chris Jackson:

Yeah.

Jenn:

and then just going back to the classrooms and we were so

Jenn:

excited, but now we're not excited.

Jenn:

So I didn't quite understand what had happened right in that moment,

Jenn:

but I knew later that night when watching the news with Reagan and my

Jenn:

parents, I kind of put it all together.

Jenn:

But in that moment it wasn't, One of the things I loved about Valley Forge

Jenn:

and one of the great stories they tell is there's like 200 men of color that fight

Jenn:

for Washington during the Revolutionary War, and most of them are free.

Jenn:

There's a lot of there's enslaved and there's free.

Jenn:

So here's Washington leading men of all different backgrounds.

Jenn:

And You know, people always wonder about him as an enslaver, but here

Jenn:

he is leading free men of color and then after death, uh, Martha sets his

Jenn:

enslaved free and people always wonder, well, how do you wrestle with these two

Jenn:

things to, like, look at somebody and be inspired by them, but also look at.

Jenn:

They, the biggest, probably the biggest sin of American history is enslavement.

Jenn:

And so to have someone who's done both is hard for people to wrestle with.

Jenn:

And as a historian, I always try to tell people, you don't have to judge them.

Jenn:

You don't have to wrestle with them.

Jenn:

You don't have to try to come to terms with that.

Jenn:

All you need to do is know the truth.

Jenn:

That's it.

Jenn:

And then from there, you can decide.

Jenn:

You can look at some things and go, I'll learn from that.

Jenn:

I'll learn to do it this way, or I'm going to learn from

Jenn:

this and do it better this way.

Jenn:

But you don't have to judge them.

Jenn:

I mean, like that really isn't your job, but how do you wrestle with that?

Jenn:

Do you ever have people say things to you or you know, ask you questions like that?

Jenn:

you know, how do you respond to that?

Chris Jackson:

I think there's room for all of the, all of the thoughts.

Chris Jackson:

Cause I've had all of them.

Chris Jackson:

I had them all before anybody knew that Hamilton was ever gonna be a thing.

Chris Jackson:

So they only freed slaves because they didn't want to place the burden of the

Chris Jackson:

tax and the upkeep of those living persons on whomever would be inheriting them.

Chris Jackson:

If the person that was going to be inheriting the slaves could not afford

Chris Jackson:

to do that, that was the main impetus.

Scott:

Interesting.

Scott:

Of

Chris Jackson:

And since I've learned that fact or that idea,

Chris Jackson:

I found it very important to include that into the conversation.

Chris Jackson:

course.

Chris Jackson:

Because I'm not prepared to venerate Washington or any of his contemporaries

Chris Jackson:

or any that followed him with any sort of virtue because, well, at

Chris Jackson:

least when they died, Oh yeah.

Chris Jackson:

Yeah.

Chris Jackson:

Yeah.

Chris Jackson:

you're right you know what?

Chris Jackson:

I've also learned that there's a.

Chris Jackson:

There's a process by which we, the history gets, the history is living, right?

Chris Jackson:

And then as eras move on, then the story is told, it's codified

Chris Jackson:

somehow, generally, by sitting out in the sun and drying for a bit.

Chris Jackson:

And then we just kind of like, assume that role, and then we start Promoting it.

Chris Jackson:

And we're still not past that.

Chris Jackson:

We're really not past the sort of post civil war slash reconstruction,

Chris Jackson:

construction of the American narrative.

Chris Jackson:

We're still just sort of like the general public is still sort of learning why

Chris Jackson:

all these statues just got taken down.

Chris Jackson:

And why would you want to take down a statue?

Chris Jackson:

Because it was based on lies.

Chris Jackson:

So we don't, and we don't want to live in that space.

Chris Jackson:

So, social change takes a long time to, to actually evolve and, and to happen.

Chris Jackson:

With that, I, when I went to see, when I went to visit Mount Vernon,

Chris Jackson:

the first time I was 11 years

Chris Jackson:

old.

Chris Jackson:

So everything is just sort of like in a postcard, right?

Chris Jackson:

Then the next time that I actually went there was in preparation for this role.

Chris Jackson:

And the first place that I went, As a kid was to see all of the stuff that

Chris Jackson:

was old, the antiques, the real things.

Chris Jackson:

What did Washington touch?

Chris Jackson:

When I came back the second time, I came back.

Chris Jackson:

And the first place that I had to go to before I would go into that

Chris Jackson:

house were the slave quarters, Yes, because I had a different

Chris Jackson:

awareness and there were different things that were important to me.

Chris Jackson:

And instead of thinking about what did Washington touch?

Chris Jackson:

I'm thinking about, well, which slave planted that tree?

Chris Jackson:

And that fence row, that, that stone row that goes on for three

Chris Jackson:

quarters of a mile, who did that?

Chris Jackson:

And Washington's teeth weren't wooden.

Chris Jackson:

They were ripped out of another human being's mouth and sent

Chris Jackson:

to a dentist in Philadelphia.

Chris Jackson:

Like these are different concerns.

Chris Jackson:

These are, it's a different awareness, right?

Chris Jackson:

So, and I, and I make that point because our understanding evolves over time if

Chris Jackson:

we allow it to, and if we pursue it.

Chris Jackson:

You can't just sort of like, let it fall on you.

Chris Jackson:

You got to chase after it much in the work that you do.

Chris Jackson:

People can't know something different unless you show them something different.

Chris Jackson:

And if you are in a position as a history, historian to share that, then

Chris Jackson:

God bless, because that's the only way to sort of reverse, not undo the

Chris Jackson:

narrative, but just bring it to the sun.

Chris Jackson:

Let it be the real thing.

Chris Jackson:

And let it be all of those things.

Chris Jackson:

And there's nothing that I could have ever done or said as an actor or an

Chris Jackson:

artist portraying this guy's life that would have changed the facts.

Chris Jackson:

Yeah.

Chris Jackson:

So you can humanize.

Chris Jackson:

I mean, it's not to distract.

Chris Jackson:

It is not Lin's.

Chris Jackson:

Lin's intention was not to distract anyone, right?

Chris Jackson:

It just wasn't.

Chris Jackson:

It wasn't my intention to portray that.

Chris Jackson:

If someone received that or, or, or took away, that away, I have to live with that,

Chris Jackson:

but that was not, the artist's intention is to paint a picture and the, the

Chris Jackson:

consumer or the, the, the person who comes to experience the art should be provoked

Chris Jackson:

and And then have a thought and whatever that thought happens to be as an artist,

Chris Jackson:

I'm open to that because that's my job.

Chris Jackson:

My job isn't to tell you how to think or what to think.

Chris Jackson:

It's to show you something that might.

Chris Jackson:

inspire thought that might inspire the next great idea that might inspire

Chris Jackson:

the next great movement or the next great act of kindness or civil service.

Chris Jackson:

All of that, all of that.

Chris Jackson:

That's, that's my, that's my job.

Chris Jackson:

I know what my job is.

Chris Jackson:

It's, it's, it's as narrowly defined as possible, as it can be.

Chris Jackson:

But Washington Jefferson, Madison, Madison was the biggest slave holder in

Chris Jackson:

the, in the United States at the time.

Chris Jackson:

What I just learned from this, Michael Harriot's wonderful book,

Chris Jackson:

Black AF History, was that the number of slaves from, from the English

Chris Jackson:

perspective, the number of slaves that you owned, you've got 50 acres of

Chris Jackson:

land for every slave that you owned.

Chris Jackson:

Which incentivized the practice of shadow slavery from the Africans.

Chris Jackson:

So, and I've been, I've been studying this stuff for a while.

Chris Jackson:

I know a lot, but I never knew

Chris Jackson:

that one fact, right?

Chris Jackson:

So, it, it, you're all, there's

Chris Jackson:

always more, you're right, there's always more to learn.

Chris Jackson:

And that's why history provides a really amazing picture because even in

Chris Jackson:

our research, there's so many people doing it and now you just have to

Chris Jackson:

get to the information, but I never

Chris Jackson:

knew that.

Chris Jackson:

And as that translates then to the first thing I thought about was, well, of course

Chris Jackson:

they owned as many slaves as they could.

Chris Jackson:

Of course they were incentivized to do it in spite of, England banning the practice.

Chris Jackson:

Of course all of this stuff happened and it doesn't, it doesn't it

Chris Jackson:

doesn't take away from the fact.

Chris Jackson:

The facts, the timelines, the actions.

Chris Jackson:

I look at these men and I say, they never lived up to the ideals, but my God,

Chris Jackson:

they, whether they intended to or not created a platform on a piece of paper.

Chris Jackson:

They wrote things down that had never been written before.

Chris Jackson:

And from that, we were able to aspire to all of these very natural

Chris Jackson:

rights and then, and, and continue the tradition of the enlightenment.

Chris Jackson:

We are lucky that they wrote better than they were.

Chris Jackson:

Yeah.

Chris Jackson:

That's what I always say.

Chris Jackson:

we're lucky, we're lucky.

Chris Jackson:

And it's not that there weren't people in the, in the Continental

Chris Jackson:

Congress that weren't already beating the drum, but there were just so few

Chris Jackson:

that it didn't permeate through, that at the, at the moment at the time,

Chris Jackson:

but so many of the things that we're fighting for now are, are, are based

Chris Jackson:

around the ideas that these men.

Chris Jackson:

We're able to get down in spite of themselves.

Chris Jackson:

And that's it.

Chris Jackson:

If you're a spiritual person, I will say that is, that is nothing short of

Chris Jackson:

a miracle or an act of God, because men will always find a way to get in their

Chris Jackson:

own way,

Chris Jackson:

And always find a way to let their, their most base selves be the thing that they

Chris Jackson:

lead with but like to, to, to come, to, come into all of this enlightened and

Chris Jackson:

aspirational thought in spite of the things that they were doing on the side

Chris Jackson:

or, kind of leading with is kind of a

Chris Jackson:

miracle.

Chris Jackson:

So it's kind of hard to not buy into the whole America or being sort of,

Chris Jackson:

or ordained and especially anointed or appointed to create a space

Chris Jackson:

where as many people can be free as

Chris Jackson:

possible.

Jenn:

That's what I always say.

Jenn:

I always say we were, we are reaching towards an ideal.

Jenn:

that we've never quite gotten to.

Jenn:

We have never gotten to yet, but we keep reaching for it.

Jenn:

And we keep trying to be better and we keep trying to learn.

Jenn:

And like you said, like you hope to inspire the, what I do with history

Jenn:

is I try to, I don't tell people what to think either, but I try

Jenn:

to teach, teach them how, how to historians show you the information.

Jenn:

what's a primary source, what's a secondary source, right?

Jenn:

Who is saying what?

Jenn:

And like you said, even with how the story changes at Mount Vernon, how the

Jenn:

focus of the story changes at Mount Vernon, I always tell people, reach back.

Jenn:

History is always there.

Jenn:

You know, The people who made Washington are there.

Jenn:

They're still there.

Jenn:

You reach back and you can find them.

Jenn:

Right now, we're still trying to find their names.

Jenn:

I wrote a whole paper in grad school called Say My Name, Say My

Jenn:

Name because the names get lost sometimes and even trying to find

Jenn:

the name is hard, but they're there.

Jenn:

Those people are there and to remember them, to remember what they did, like

Jenn:

you said, who planted that tree, who made, who put that, we're remembering

Jenn:

their part in building the country.

Jenn:

And it's just as important as George Washington.

Jenn:

And that's what I think is so great about a person of color playing

Jenn:

George Washington is like you're showing that they're just as

Jenn:

important at building the country.

Jenn:

I always say every other person's a woman.

Jenn:

They were just as important and is building this country as the

Jenn:

men, even though they don't write

Chris Jackson:

question.

Jenn:

so.

Jenn:

They're there.

Jenn:

They're just, they're doing their job.

Jenn:

It might not be a formal power, but their informal power is still there.

Jenn:

And I love that, Chris.

Jenn:

I love that.

Jenn:

Yeah.

Chris Jackson:

And you see their, their fingerprints on all of it.

Chris Jackson:

Do you know what I mean?

Chris Jackson:

I just feel like now when we tell the story, we get to tell it without

Chris Jackson:

the cynicism, without the, the, the patronizing tone and the, that, that.

Chris Jackson:

Often.

Chris Jackson:

And in spite of having eight children, she also, what do you mean

Chris Jackson:

in spite of having eight children?

Chris Jackson:

A woman would bear eight children in, in, in a fairly, really fairly

Chris Jackson:

primitive setting and yet have a thought and yet teach herself how to read.

Chris Jackson:

I was doing a reading a couple of weeks ago of this play.

Chris Jackson:

And we were the character.

Chris Jackson:

One of the characters I was portraying was a man by the name of Alan Allensworth.

Chris Jackson:

And he was a Colonel in the, in the U S army and around the.

Chris Jackson:

Turn of the 19th century founded a town out in California, but one of the things

Chris Jackson:

that he, this character was constantly saying that the playwright didn't

Chris Jackson:

know is that, I taught myself to read.

Chris Jackson:

I taught myself to read.

Chris Jackson:

Well, 92 percent of black folks in America couldn't read at the end, the day after

Chris Jackson:

slavery ended and within 20 years, over 60 percent could, and no time in the

Chris Jackson:

history of, of, of modern man kind of has.

Chris Jackson:

That kind of change ever happened.

Chris Jackson:

amazing.

Chris Jackson:

Do you know what I mean?

Chris Jackson:

Like it's, it's knowing these things that will shape your, even

Chris Jackson:

just the, I'm an actor doing a reading that, a hundred people saw

Chris Jackson:

cause they're developing something.

Chris Jackson:

But as an actor, knowing Mm hmm.

Chris Jackson:

put me in a position to educate the people that actually wrote the thing Yes.

Chris Jackson:

Yes, know what I'm saying?

Chris Jackson:

So like the importance of just sharing information, especially historically based

Chris Jackson:

information is such a profound thing.

Chris Jackson:

It's such a profound thing.

Chris Jackson:

It's such a powerful and empowering kind

Chris Jackson:

of thing to

Chris Jackson:

do.

Jenn:

absolutely.

Jenn:

I, I completely agree with you.

Jenn:

And you know, Chris, I really thank you for having this conversation with You

Jenn:

know, I find it important to tell the stories that don't want to be told Right.

Jenn:

And like getting deep into the South and I'm, I uncover stuff and I tell

Jenn:

these and, you know, sometimes people don't want to hear it from, from this.

Jenn:

But I always try to tell them, listen to the history, not me,

Jenn:

listen to the history, listen to what I'm trying to tell you.

Jenn:

And even if you just want to read it, it needs to be And like Ida B.

Jenn:

Wells was always like, turn the light of truth on it, right?

Jenn:

The truth needs to be told.

Jenn:

It's there.

Jenn:

Just someone's got to shine the light on it,

Chris Jackson:

I love that quote too.

Chris Jackson:

Turn a lot of

Chris Jackson:

truth on it.

Chris Jackson:

I do.

Chris Jackson:

I've

Chris Jackson:

always loved that

Chris Jackson:

quote.

Chris Jackson:

Yeah.

Jenn:

And I will say, Chris, Hamilton inspired so many people to learn history.

Chris Jackson:

Yeah.

Jenn:

I mean, I left school to go to Hamilton.

Jenn:

I left the class.

Jenn:

My professor was like, go.

Jenn:

I was like, I'm going to miss

Chris Jackson:

Dig.

Jenn:

I'm going to go how much She's like, go.

Jenn:

She's like, Jennifer, go see

Chris Jackson:

Tell us about it.

Jenn:

Tell us about it.

Jenn:

And then I brought her

Jenn:

back like stuff from the gift shop.

Jenn:

And

Chris Jackson:

Yeah, you did.

Chris Jackson:

Yeah, you did.

Chris Jackson:

I love

Chris Jackson:

it.

Jenn:

like.

Jenn:

And we stayed staged door and they signed her.

Jenn:

It was amazing.

Jenn:

uh, But she, you know, getting a master's degree of history.

Jenn:

I tell people all the time, everyone's a historian, right?

Jenn:

Everybody, it's hard.

Jenn:

Like, why would I have a master's degree in this?

Jenn:

But I tell people, so I can learn what makes something historically accurate.

Jenn:

How are historians measuring the truth?

Jenn:

Like how there are secondary sources that can get very.

Jenn:

tied into primary sources and they can, you can believe that actually what

Jenn:

happened, but if you can't find it, like I really had to dig deep because you

Jenn:

hear some of the same stuff over and over, but what really happened, right?

Jenn:

What was really happening that day?

Jenn:

What was, who really said what?

Jenn:

and so those are the kinds of things that are kind of harder

Jenn:

for historians to do and harder to pull uh, but I really thank you.

Jenn:

You know, Hamilton meant a lot to me.

Jenn:

I have the shirt.

Jenn:

I have the book.

Jenn:

And as a historian, I felt like you really validated my work.

Jenn:

And so I thank, I thank you guys for what you did.

Chris Jackson:

I appreciate that.

Chris Jackson:

That's, that's kind of a common thing.

Chris Jackson:

Response from true historians.

Chris Jackson:

Cause it's I mean, the majority of the things that as a historian, the majority

Chris Jackson:

of the things that you do are completely.

Chris Jackson:

by yourself, you're in the stacks reading micro what used to be micro

Chris Jackson:

fish, but now you're like digging, like you're, you're driving two hours to,

Chris Jackson:

to go, stand next to a pile of weeds.

Chris Jackson:

There has no marker, but you know that this is a place where something

Chris Jackson:

happened, and the only reason why any of this ground has any value at all.

Chris Jackson:

In our memory is knowing what has happened in certain places.

Chris Jackson:

It's why we venerate battlegrounds.

Chris Jackson:

It's why we commemorate or memorialize places that, you know where things

Chris Jackson:

that are significant happened so that you don't repeat if they were

Chris Jackson:

bad, that you don't repeat them.

Chris Jackson:

There was, there was a tremendous amount of, of a racially based

Chris Jackson:

unrest in, in my hometown.

Chris Jackson:

And, my, my hometown is, is South, well, South of the Mason Dixon line.

Chris Jackson:

But it was a pit of vipers for a hundred years.

Chris Jackson:

There was a lynching in my, in my town of a young man who, is

Chris Jackson:

believed that he was mentally impaired and yet didn't stop them.

Chris Jackson:

And I was, God, I was.

Chris Jackson:

I didn't really, I'd heard ramp rumblings about it growing up there, but I never

Chris Jackson:

knew the facts of it until, several years ago when I was doing some research and

Chris Jackson:

came across it, John Lewis marched in our, in our, in our, my hometown I saw

Chris Jackson:

not six months ago, I discovered pictures.

Chris Jackson:

That John Lewis marched at the, at the public swimming

Chris Jackson:

pool because it was segregated.

Chris Jackson:

And when a young black boy got in the water, they drained the pool

Chris Jackson:

and closed it down, filled it with dirt the next, like next week.

Chris Jackson:

But these are things that I never knew.

Chris Jackson:

Thurgood Marshall came to my, came to my town right after he had joined the

Chris Jackson:

NAACP to bail out one of the workers who had been arrested in my hometown.

Chris Jackson:

At the local customs house, which is, which held the courthouse.

Chris Jackson:

And I didn't find that out until, several years ago when I was

Chris Jackson:

researching a project that I'm writing.

Chris Jackson:

So like all of these things, like I come from a town of 1500 people, it's

Chris Jackson:

not that hard to know what happened, someone's always willing, to talk,

Chris Jackson:

but I was 17, when I left there, so 18 years old, I didn't know to ask

Chris Jackson:

those things and believe it or not.

Chris Jackson:

My history teacher lived there when all was all happening and he still

Chris Jackson:

didn't bring it up, and I was curious.

Chris Jackson:

I asked questions.

Chris Jackson:

So my point is, is that, once you get a taste of how powerful

Chris Jackson:

knowledge is, it is absolutely

Chris Jackson:

infectious.

Chris Jackson:

and if you give into that, from my perspective as an artist, the quote I

Chris Jackson:

live by is that my job is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.

Chris Jackson:

And historians have a very, a very similar path.

Chris Jackson:

If you're doing it right.

Chris Jackson:

If you're doing it right.

Chris Jackson:

If you're telling stories that didn't happen,

Chris Jackson:

that's something else.

Chris Jackson:

But if you're doing it like you are it's just enough to put it there and

Chris Jackson:

think what you will, say what you will, change how you will, or not.

Chris Jackson:

But you can't ignore it because the burden of knowledge rests upon the bearer of it.

Chris Jackson:

Once you know something, you can't pretend

Chris Jackson:

to not know it.

Chris Jackson:

Now you have your own conscience to wrestle with.

Chris Jackson:

That's what it is, but that's what historians do.

Jenn:

Oh, I love it.

Jenn:

Thank you, Chris.

Jenn:

Thank you for giving us this time today.

Jenn:

Thank you for liking that video.

Chris Jackson:

Happy to talk to you guys.

Chris Jackson:

I'm telling you you're living a life of artists You're doing stuff that you

Chris Jackson:

that is interesting to you and that you know is important and it reaches

Chris Jackson:

people It's just nice to know it.

Chris Jackson:

Sometimes it's nice to hear back from the world because you, you make the

Chris Jackson:

thing and then you put it out in the world and it's making, it's making TV,

Chris Jackson:

theater is a different thing, but making television, it's like you shoot something

Chris Jackson:

two months ago and then it comes out five, five months later, hope people like it,

Chris Jackson:

you forgot you did it, or you're still living in it, but no one else is there.

Chris Jackson:

There's no audience, so it's, it's in the immediate, it's,

Chris Jackson:

it's great to talk to you guys.

Chris Jackson:

I really enjoy, I do really enjoy what you guys are doing.

Scott:

Thank, thank you again so Chris.

Scott:

Um, I mean, for our audience, I mean, do you have any kind of things coming

Scott:

out places to you want people to look you up or anything like that?

Scott:

I mean, we're See next?

Chris Jackson:

Oh, I am I am, you just, you can see I'm in my

Chris Jackson:

studio right now.

Chris Jackson:

I'm, I'm working on a record.

Chris Jackson:

I'm writing a musical.

Chris Jackson:

I've got three TV shows that are.

Chris Jackson:

In various stages of development.

Chris Jackson:

And one of them is a historical

Chris Jackson:

drama that is based on the Pullman porters, from George Pullman from of

Chris Jackson:

railway fame starts four days after the end of the civil war.

Chris Jackson:

And we, it's an anthology which is, which has been a really, it's a fun

Chris Jackson:

Americana kind of story, which is going to be a lot of fun to, if we can.

Chris Jackson:

ever finish the damn thing.

Chris Jackson:

But there's, like I, I have always tried my best and worked really hard at

Chris Jackson:

doing as many things well as I could.

Chris Jackson:

And it's kind of, cause it kind of fills up sort of the curiosity in, in my life.

Chris Jackson:

And it challenges me to try to do things that I'm not good at at all.

Chris Jackson:

But this is what we're doing.

Chris Jackson:

So, Sex and the City doesn't really, we don't pick back up until May

Chris Jackson:

and it's probably going to be next calendar year before that comes out.

Chris Jackson:

Of course, next year is the big 10 year anniversary for Ham.

Chris Jackson:

So I'm sure there'll be some, things floating around around that too.

Chris Jackson:

But right now I'm, I'm, I'm burning macaroni and cheese in my oven.

Chris Jackson:

And torturing my kids as they watch me eat it, just because I have to.

Chris Jackson:

being a good dad.

Chris Jackson:

And, that's it.

Chris Jackson:

That's it.

Chris Jackson:

And and, and trying to trying to learn as much as I can about as

Chris Jackson:

much as I can and, and talk to good

Chris Jackson:

folks like you

Chris Jackson:

guys.

About the Podcast

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Talk With History
A Historian and Navy Veteran talk about traveling to historic locations

About your hosts

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Scott B

Host of the Talk With History podcast, Producer over at Walk with History on YouTube, Editor of HistoryNewsletter.com
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Jennifer B

Former Naval Aviator turned Historian and a loyal Penn Stater. (WE ARE!) I earned my Masters in American History and graduate certificate in Museum Studies, from the University of Memphis.

The Talk with History podcast gives Scott and me a chance to go deeper into the details of our Walk with History YouTube videos and gives you a behind-the-scenes look at our history-inspired adventures.

Join us as we talk about these real-world historic locations and learn about the events that continue to impact you today!

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Thank you to everyone who supports the show and keeps us up and running. Doing this with your support means that we can continue to share history and historic locations for years to come!
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Thank you for the great podcasts and for sharing your passion! Love hearing about the locations you visit.