Visitors kick off Black History Month at Slave Haven Underground Railroad Museum

Visitors kick off Black History Month at Slave Haven Underground Railroad Museum

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - February is an important time across the nation as Black History Month kicks off.

Tours of the Slave Haven Underground Railroad Museum were packed on the first day of February in celebration of the annual observance.

Saturday the museum announced that the third annual Living Legends Award hosted by State Representative Barbara Cooper will be held March 8, close to Harriet Tubman’s birthday, at the National Civil Rights Museum. It’s a huge honor for a quickly growing event.

“The award salutes people who have their boots on the ground, who they see it as their duty to get out and help somebody, get something done every day,” said Tony Jones, One Voice Community Coalition media volunteer.

Some Memphians may have never heard of the Slave Haven Museum. It's off the beaten path on North Second. The home, built in 1856 and owned by German immigrant Jacob Burkle, has an incredible history.

“He used his house to hide runaway slaves,” said Elaine Turner, Slave Haven Museum director.

The quiet, tucked away location made it ideal for a secret stop along the underground railroad.

“This was the outskirts of Memphis, very secluded, nobody else lived out here. Jacob Burkle conducted this network in secrecy,” said Turner.

The history was only uncovered less than 25 years ago. The home is the only known safe house location that harbored runaway slaves in the Mid-South.

“This is a treasure right here in Memphis,” said Turner.

The museum tour is an immersive experience, with photos, music and the museum's most awe-inspiring aspect -- a trap door leading to Burkle's cellar where runaway slaves would hide before heading north.

“This is exactly like it was when we found out about the house over 20 years ago,” said Turner.

Visitors left the museum Saturday feeling impressed.

Romalic Jones brought a young man he calls his surrogate nephew with him to learn more about black history during this important month.

“To pay homage to all those that paved the way for us to be able to have the opportunities although we have a lot to learn and a long way to go,” said Jones.

Elaine Turner, director of the Slave Haven Museum, says it's important for everyone, no matter our race, to learn something new during Black History Month.

“African American history is American history. Unfortunately much of that history has been omitted and Black History Month is a time not just for African Americans but for everyone to try to absorb more of the history that you missed,” said Turner.

If you are interested in coming to the Slave Haven Museum during Black History Month, it's open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Be sure to tune in this Black History Month, as we will be airing special stories each Wednesday during our 6 p.m. newscast.

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