History Revisited

Waddell Stillman, President of Historic Hudson Valley (photo courtesy of HHV)

“History got under my skin.” That’s the way Waddell Stillman explains his 27-year stint at Historic Hudson Valley (HHV), first as CFO and now as President and CEO. It’s what led him and his team to develop a groundbreaking education program about slavery in the Colonial North. People Not Property is an interactive website and documentary now available online. It stitches together videos, interviews, reenactments and hundreds of artifacts and documents into a sobering narrative of slavery at Philipsburg Manor, the historic site in Tarrytown under the aegis of HVV. The location has been well known as a thriving milling and trading complex in 1750 and now incorporates the stories of the 23 slaves who worked there.

With a successful career in finance, it’s improbable that Stillman set out to rewrite history. He came to HHV to tackle budgetary matters. Yet, perhaps there was the soul of a historian in his DNA. His father was a published historian and a great believer in primary sources. Those (by the way) are documents that go right to the heart of a matter. His mother was a Southern gal from North Carolina. Race relations, he says, seemed to be a frequent topic at the dinner table.

It’s never been clear to me whether we get to choose our life’s work, or a life’s work chooses us. But thanks to Waddell Stillman’s, HHV will be a potent voice in our national conversations about race. ​

For more info, visit peoplenotproperty.hudsonvalley.org