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Vignette Details

Jacob Burkle Estate / Slave Haven

Memphis, Tennessee

Enslaved Africans within the United States became an interstate export commodity when the United States Constitution outlawed the international slave trade in 1808. Newly formed states such as Mississippi, Arkansas, and Tennessee, became involved in the slave trade with Memphis being Tennessee's largest slave trading city. Cotton was king in Memphis, and in the mid-1800s the need for free labor was in high demand. That need was met with the establishment of more than a dozen lucrative slave-trading businesses. Within the shadows of the slave marts, however, there were a few brave individuals who plotted to undermine this inhumane institution. Jacob Burkle, a German immigrant, was among those in the anti-slavery movement who risked their lives to help escaping Africans by harboring them in their homes and aiding them on their journey to freedom. Cloaked in secrecy, Jacob Burkle, a stockyard owner, also operated an Underground Railroad waystation on the outskirts of Memphis from c.1855 until the abolition of slavery. Burkle's unsuspecting modest home, located near the banks of the Mississippi River, provided refuge for runaway slaves during their flight to freedom in the North. (excerpt taken from "Slave Haven UGRR Museum" brochure, Memphis, TN)