Slave Haven Underground Railroad Museum celebrates Black History Month

Published: Feb. 5, 2023 at 8:20 AM CST|Updated: Feb. 5, 2023 at 3:57 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - A Mid-South museum is encouraging Memphians to learn about the history that sits in their backyard.

The Slave Haven Underground Railroad Museum is celebrating Black History Month through various events throughout the month of February.

“It’s a piece of history,” said Elaine Turner. “American History, African American History, it’s the history of Memphis, it’s a part of the history of the United States.”

Since the 1990s, the Burkle Estate has been a place for people to see a glimpse of the past.

“There were people who actually aided runaways right here in Memphis, right here in the south,” Turner said. [And] risked their lives to do so.”

Elaine Turner is the president of Heritage Tours and Director of the Slave Haven Underground Railroad Museum.

She tells Action News 5, a German immigrant and abolitionist Jacob Burkle, made his home a “safe” haven for slaves.

“He was opposed to slavery and rather than sit idly by and see people being enslaved and brutalized, he decides that he wants to be a part of helping them to escape,” said Turner.

People from all over the country come to visit what Turner calls a “jewel” in Memphis.

She says being able to walk into the cellar where slaves hid gives people a better understanding and appreciation for history.

“They missed all of this in school,” she said.

“It wasn’t taught and you’ll be surprised at the people who come here having no idea what the underground railroad means but after they leave here, [they learn] it was an undercover operation and quite a successful one.”

Turner says visits to the museum are life-changing for many.

“They began to ponder the circumstances today,” Turner said. “Injustices that are going on today, and then they begin to say, there’s something that we all should do to help those who are receiving injustice.”

And while Turner says she’s glad they attract so many visitors from across the country, she wants more Memphians to learn their city’s history.

“We want to encourage Memphians to come and see the treasures in their own city,” Turner said.

The Slave Haven Underground Railroad Museum offers daily tours Monday through Saturday starting at 10 a.m. until 4 p.m.

It’s located at 826 North Second Street.

The museum will host a Black Authors Book Signing, next Saturday, Feb. 11.

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