“The history of Memphis' underground railroad”
Slavery in America began as a part of a long history of international trade in goods and people. In one of the largest forced migrations in history, millions of Africans crossed the Atlantic from the 16th to the 19th centuries through the horrific "Middle Passage."After reaching America, Africans were auctioned off to the highest bidder and doomed to a life of slavery, stripping them of their dignity, their pride and most of all, their freedom. Whenever possible, individuals attempted to liberate themselves by running away. Many runaways were aided by abolitionists who gave them safe passage on the Underground Railroad. Cotton was King in Memphis, and in the mid-1800s, the need for free labor was in high demand. That need was met with the establishment of more than a dozen lucrative slave-trading businesses. Memphis quickly became Tennessee's largest slave-trading city. Jacob Burkle, a German immigrant, was among those in the anti-slavery movement who risked their lives to help escaping Africans by harboring them in their homes and aiding them on their journey to freedom. Cloaked away in secrecy, Burkle, a stockyard owner, operated an underground Railroad way station on the outskirts of Memphis from around 1855 until the abolition of slavery. Burkle's unsuspecting, modest home, located near the banks of the Mississippi River, provided refuge for runaway slaves during their flight to freedom in the North. A walk through this antebellum home is a journey through history, revealing secrets of its past that had been kept secret for more than 100 years. As you descend the stairs into the dark, damp, cellar and peer through the trap doors and hidden passages where the fugitives were harbored, you get a glimpse of those turbulent times.Imagine for a moment what daring escapes these must have been for those who were determined to break the chains of slavery.
We brought our kids (13 and 11), who say: "It's educational but not boring." They want to go back again this summer. We were very impressed by the dedication and knowledge of the staff. We especially loved the musical lecture.
We loved this. The ladies know their history. Tour was approx 1.5-2 hours. It is a really great small museum. I am so glad we chose this over Graceland. Very informative and just an all around great experience. Even my 13 yr old who just wants to play video games enjoyed it.
I would definitely recommend making this part of your trip if you’re at all interested in learning about the history of African Americans. It was disappointing that you can’t take pictures inside but it was engaging listening to the story of the owner of the house and how he was able to use his position to help slaves to freedom.
This museum is interesting on the level of small yet eye-opening. Go as small groups (if in a group) due to size of space. Guided tour was nicely done by two ladies. There are several other features of the house that are not related to slavery but to the mentality of southern living (at the time) and current history as related to racist prejudice.
My daughter and I found it interesting enough. It was good for visualization of the time period. I hope the donations offered go to the up keep of the premises (as it is badly needed).
Small place and groups but intimate and eye opening insights to horrors of slavery.
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Slave Haven Underground Railroad
- Mon - Sat: 10:00 am - 4:00 pm
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