Module 13 Assignment: Casting Call

Given the rousing success of Hamilton: An American Musical, Broadway big shots are producing Freedom’s Cry, a new play or musical about the sectional crisis in the ten years before the outbreak of the Civil War. They have named you the casting director, and want you to select five historical figures whose perspective this production will follow through the 1850s. Once you have selected the five historical figures, you will select the contemporary people who you will cast in these roles.


Step 1: Select five historical figures whose perspective this production will follow through the 1850s. The producers expect that these five figures must include at least one woman, one enslaver, and one enslaved or Indigenous person. (These requirements may overlap, if you wish. For example, you may select a female enslaver.) Remember to cite your sources.

Step 2: Once you have selected five historical figures, ponder who you would cast in these roles. While movie or television stars might be the most obvious options, you may pick musicians, athletes, or even contemporary politicians if you prefer. Beware of making frivolous casting choices! Consider carefully the personalities, challenges, and agendas these historical figures have and ponder which modern public figures would be most adept at drawing out the drama and conflict they face in that moment of history. Just as in the musical, Hamilton, your casting choices do not have to correlate with a person’s looks; nontraditional casting is welcomed.

Step 3: Complete a table similar to the example below for each of your casting selections.


Historical Figure  Historical Summary Actor/Public Figure Cast Reasoning
Margaretta Mason from Primary Source: Margaraetta Mason and Lydia Maria Child discuss John Brown, 1860 Margaretta Mason was a northern-born woman who married James M. Mason, who went on to become a U.S. senator from Virginia and a supporter of the Confederacy. Alongside her husband, Mason was an enslaver. Ann Dowd Dowd’s work on the Hulu series The Handmaid’s Tale as Aunt Lydia shows her talent for playing stern, authoritarian characters who view their own actions in a maternal light. The Aunt Lydia character also, in the show’s dystopian setting, uses religious texts sincerely, but in justification of a stratified order in society that tolerates no dissent or resistance. Like Mason, Dowd’s Aunt Lydia lacks basic social rights even as she works to deny them to others.

Assignment Grading Rubric:

Criteria Poor Good Excellent Points
Five suitable historical figures are chosen Not all five figures are named, or are anachronistic. Five figures are named, but may not fit the criteria perfectly (one woman, one BIPOC, etc.). Five figures are chosen fitting the criteria comfortably. ___/4
The historical import of these figures is justified The historical summary does not address their relevance to the sectional crisis. The learner provides accurate, straightforward  biographical data to show the five peoples’ relevance to the coming of the Civil War. The historical summary considers the nuances of the person’s biography, and is more than just “a White slaveholder” or “a Black woman”. ___/8
Casting choice justification The reasoning is superficial and does not consider the historic person’s perspective, such as choosing someone merely based on their resemblance to an actor. Connections are made to contemporary public figures, but in a sketchy or somewhat simplistic way. The reasoning makes an attempt at historical context. The justifications demonstrate historical empathy and draws from the primary source readings or textbook. Considers their worldview and can make apt connections to 21st-century public figures ___/8
  Total ___/20