Historic Hudson Valley sheds light on slavery in the colonial North with their newest project, “People Not Property.”
“People Not Property” is an interactive website that consists of a series of chapters each telling a part of the story of slavery in the North from the perspective of enslaved people. The chapters contain historic images, maps, and videos. The project also focuses on the stories of the twenty-three enslaved people who worked on Philipsburg Manor, the estate now operated by Historic Hudson Valley as a museum.
One section of the website explores the connections between slavery and higher education in the North. Many universities, including Brown, Princeton, and Rutgers, were endowed by slave owners or built using slave labor. Rutgers has continued to explore its connection to African slavery and Native American genocide through its “Scarlet and Black” project.
The “People Not Property” project is intended to address the misconception that slavery was a uniquely southern issue. In the project’s introduction, Historic Hudson Valley President Waddell W. Stillman says “When a story like slavery in the North is left out because it doesn’t contribute to people’s good feelings, that shortchanges history and people’s understanding of the past and how we came to be the way we are today.”
Historic Hudson Valley reports that “People Not Property” has been received well by educators in the region as a teaching tool. The team behind the project has developed relationships with school districts in the area and has presented the website at social sciences conferences.
“People Not Property” is a part of Historic Hudson Valley’s “Slavery in the Colonial North” programs, a collection of on-site, in-school, and digital activities that reflect the organization’s commitment “sharing the history of northern colonial enslavement, and to dispelling the myths that many Americans still believe about its scope and impact.”
The project comes as the country remembers the 400th anniversary of the first enslaved Africans arriving in the English colonies in North America.