Slave Haven Underground Railroad Museum, Memphis
Tennessee, TN, USA
The Slave Haven Underground Railroad Museum is a museum about slavery and the underground railroad set in the Burkle Estate, a house that may have been used as a haven. There are no documents to prove that this house was used as a hideout for slaves making their way up the Mississippi River, but there is a Tennessee Historical Commission marker outside the house stating that "folklore persists" that the house was used as a haven for slaves seeking freedom.
This museum seems to be run by a pentecostal church group rather than a historical society. Some of the plaques don't seem like they are substantiated by any evidence such as the one that says that Burkle kept slaves in order to divert suspicion and then went even further as to put an ad in the paper seeking his escaped slaves as a trick to confuse his identity. It would be more interesting if historians were quoted and there was evidence to back up these claims.
The secret door to the cellar does not seem very elaborate and no tunnels were found when archaelogical work was done to prepare the estate to become a museum. There is also no hidden chamber (such as behind a bookcase) like you find in the Anne Frank House.
Whether the house was part of the underground railroad or not, there are some exhibits in the house that show how horrific and demeaning slavery was, and the museum can be an important place to visit with kids to teach them about this sad time in history.
The rest of the tour that just talks about houses from the mid-19th century in general, such as the use of chamberpots, was not very interesting for adults or kids, especially if you've already visited a few similar houses.
I wouldn't call this museum a must-do if you're in Memphis for a short time, but if you live here anyway or are staying a long time, then it's an interesting place to visit.
"Burkle Estate...Burkle operated a custody station for livestock on this site...Folklore persists however that the estate was also a haven for slaves escaping on the underground railroad."
Exhibit about Africa and the incredibly harsh conditions on the slave ships. Church members gathered in a side room.
This is an interactive map, you can zoom and move it.
Slave Haven Underground Railroad Museum is located at 826 N. 2nd St, Memphis TN 38107, call (901) 527-3427.
Open Mon-Sat 10-4. Open till 5 during the summer.
Admission is $10 for adults, $8 for students aged 4-17.
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