Civil War  |  Historic Site

Slave Haven Underground Railroad Museum


826 N. 2nd Street
Memphis, TN 38107
United States

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This heritage site is a part of the American Battlefield Trust's Road to Freedom: Tennessee Tour Guide app, which showcases sites integral to the Black experience during the Civil War era. Download the FREE app now.

Slave Haven Underground Railroad Museum in Memphis, Tenn.
Slave Haven Underground Railroad Museum in Memphis, Tenn. Katlynn Morris

In 1856, Jacob Burkle built his home here on the outskirts of Memphis with unusual features serving its secret function as a station on the Underground Railroad. Such “stations” and “agents” like Burkle were part of this mysterious anti-slavery network of African Americans and whites who helped enslaved people escape to freedom.

Burkle himself escaped to Memphis several years earlier, fleeing the backlash of the failed revolutions of 1848 in Germany. He found a growing cotton kingdom built on the oppressive market in slave labor. Surrounded by the stock yards he operated, the Burkle estate was just two blocks from the busy Mississippi River — one of several known Underground Railroad routes over which a conservatively estimated 5,000-10,000 Black men, women, and children travelled north from Tennessee in the decades before 1865.

Determined to control the enslaved population, in 1833 the state required both free and enslaved Blacks to travel with papers either certifying their free status or documenting their owner’s permission. Forged papers were common along the river, where Burkle reportedly guided his “passengers” from his unusual basement to boats headed north to the Ohio River and beyond to Canada.

The life-threatening risks for all associated with this covert operation meant they rarely recorded their activities. Yet a persistent tradition passed down by Burkle’s descendants and neighbors, along with the house’s odd design and strategic location, support its current use as the Slave Haven Underground Railroad Museum.

Know Before You Go

Slave Haven uses an engaging guided house tour and a variety of other artifacts and accounts to reveal the complex history of this secretive network and the cruel system it worked against.

Slave Haven Underground Railroad Museum: What's Nearby

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