The Broadway musical phenomenon Hamilton has won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for drama, becoming only the ninth musical in history to capture the award.

The innovative drama by Nuyorican playwright and composer Lin-Manuel Miranda, son of a New York political consultant, combines rap, hip hop, rhythm and blues, as well as more classic Broadway show tunes to give US history a different beat.

The play tells the story of Caribbean-born American founding father and second president of the US, Alexander Hamilton. A powerful theme of the musical is that the country has always been a nation of immigrants, and Latinos and African Americans play the role of the white presidents and politicians who launched the nation.

Miranda, who plays Hamilton, was inspired by a 2004 biography of the founding father by Ron Chernow and he stuck to the essential truth of US history – except in this version the founding fathers have rap showdowns to flesh out their political differences. The win was widely expected given the play's fresh perspective, sophisticated history and runaway success since it opened in early 2015.

"Hamilton is as smart about music as it is about the American Revolution," said Washington Post critic Peter Marks after the show opened.

The Pulitzer committee called the play "a landmark American musical about the gifted and self-destructive founding father whose story becomes both contemporary and irresistible."

"To be the ninth musical to ever win the Pulitzer Prize for drama in its almost 100 year history is truly humbling for all of us," Miranda said in a statement.

The Pulitzer is likely just the first of many accolades for the play. Much of the theater industry considers the show's sweep of the Tony Awards as a fait accompli.

In other awards, Viet Thanh Nguyen's debut novel The Symphathizers – a thriller featuring a Vietnamese spy during the fall of Saigon – took the fiction prize. Black Flags: The Rise of Isis by Joby Warrick nabbed the non-fiction award. TJ Stiles scooped his second Pulitzer for Custer's Trials: A Life on the Frontier of a New America. William Finnegan, a staff writer for the New Yorker, won the biography/autobiography prize for his surfing memoir Barbarian Days.

In the journalism category, the Associated Press (AP) nailed the public service award for its investigation of labour abuses in the seafood business. The Los Angeles Times won the breaking news prize for coverage of the San Bernardino terrorist attack, the Washington Post nabbed a national reporting prize for investigating police shootings violence and the New York Times won for breaking news photography and for international reporting for examining the struggles faced by women in Afghanistan.

The New Yorker's Emily Nussbaum captured the criticism prize and the magazine's Kathryn Schulz won the feature award for her story revealing that the Cascadia fault line in the US Northwest could cause the really Big One.