Slave Haven Underground Railroad
At one time, Cotton truly was King in Memphis.
For hundreds of years, African people were rounded up and shipped like livestock across the seas to America, sold into the booming slave trade that ensured the Delta’s cash crops were planted, tended and harvested; the city of Memphis rapidly became Tennessee’s leader in the trade business.
Eventually, the anti-slave movement saw the uprising of brave citizens who enlisted themselves in the abolition wars to assist runaways seeking to gain their freedom in the Northern states. Jacob Burkle, a German immigrant and stockyard owner, was one of them, a man who staked his life and livelihood to help escaped slaves on their way by operating an “underground railroad station” from his home near the banks of the Mississippi.
Visitors to the Burkle Estate, just a few minutes from iconic Beale Street, are treated to a well-presented tour of the modest clapboard house and grounds, wonderfully preserved and recreated in the manner of its day of service with historical documents, period furniture, hand-stitched quilts and other relevant artwork and well attended by passionate, knowledgeable guides who supply the details of the darkly oppressive days of slavery during Jacob Burkle’s time, and the way in which many were aided, en route to possible freedom, with safe-haven provided in the home. Guests will learn how slaves transmitted coded information via songs (spirituals) and quilt patterns to escape captivity and are shown the cellar, secret crawl spaces and trap doors they used to access refuge on the property, where they would silently wait for the right time to continue on their perilous journey upriver.