Few museums let you experience history like the Slave Haven Underground Railroad Museum. Here you will be immersed in an honest to goodness stop on the Underground Railroad.
Memphis is a crucial part of the history of the Civil Rights movement. The Underground Railroad was a critical part of African-American history, and while so much of what we know of the period is from oral tradition, The Slave Haven museum gives visitors a chance to interact with a piece of history.
The actual building that houses The Slave Haven had an important role in the Flight to Freedom. It was a highly-trafficked stop on the Underground Railroad, and enslaved Africans were hidden in the attic and the cellar of Jacob Burkle’s home.
Jacob Burkle was a German immigrant who fled his home country’s oppressive government in the 1850s. Historians believe that the home was built from the ground up to be a safe house on the Underground Railroad. The move was particularly risky at the time, because the site was only six blocks away from a major slave auction site.
There’s a map to help explain some of the routes, but the main reason to visit the Slave Haven sits beneath a trap door. You can visit the cellar beneath the house that provided shelter to runaway slaves before their mad dash to the Mississippi River. There were even special entrances built into the sides that allowed covert access the space. While the people passing through the Burkle home may have been safe for a moment, they were still in the South and they knew that they had a long way to go. At least they were on their way.
You can read books about history, but when you stand in the space, think about the people that they were there and what their quest for freedom was like, you experience things that no one can ever tell you in a book.
You’ll be glad to know that Jacob Burkle and his family were never caught for their efforts to rescue slaves. It’s truly an inspiring story from the Antebellum South.