One thing about moving to a new city is learning the history of the people and the places.
Slave Haven in downtown Memphis has been a place I’ve been eager to explore. My friend Ziggy suggested I check it out. I was in for a treat, knowing that downtown has so many stories. For instance, a woman decided to buy a bakery on Second Street, and a small white house came with the property and she noticed some unusual things. Can you picture going into your basement and finding secret passageways made out of brick and secret escape doors? Well, that was the case for a lady back in the late 1980’s. After making a few phone calls, archeologists and land preservation teams confirmed that this was no ordinary house, but a house that helped slaves escape the South. The Burkle house was a stop on the Underground Railroad.
Entering the house, I was greeted by 2 of the staff members that worked at the museum and for only $10, I got a guided tour where I actually learned new things. I thought I knew everything about slavery, the Middle Passage, etc. but I found out there was so much I didn’t know. I didn’t know that the insurance company I have now was also used to help pay for slaves to be shipped (along with many other companies). I learned that there were quite a few landowners in Memphis like the Burkle Family from Germany, who didn’t own slaves. And who knew that patterns from quilts were used to help communicate hidden messages about how and when to escape? I will never see quilts the same way again.
The tour left me in a bittersweet state knowing how long our people had to suffer to get to freedom and how we still are trying to reach freedom in some ways. Yet it left me encouraged to better myself. It then led me to question why some people of color who are not striving for their goals, continue to not push themselves. During the tour, there was a picture of a slave with both his hands amputated still holding a pencil because he was determined to learn how to educate himself. I have absolutely no excuse not to do well because my ancestors have dared and risked more. Such a powerful place and I encourage everybody to go check out the Slave Haven. You are not allowed to take any photos inside but trust me, what you see will stay with you. I hope Memphis preserves more of its past so that it can then remind everyone to love a little more, be grateful and take advantage of what the world has to offer.