I spent last weekend in Memphis and I had the pleasure of visiting two amazing museums that document black history and culture: the National Civil Rights Museum and the Slave Haven Museum. I love museums and learning about history even though it can be difficult emotionally.
The Slave Haven Museum is a house that was located a couple of blocks from the Mississippi River. It operated as one of the stops on the Underground Railroad in Memphis. It was owned by Mr. Jacob Burkle a German citizen who became an abolitionist. Although the house is small, they have done a good job maintaining the integrity of the house. Each room is used to tell a different historical story. The guided tour takes place once an hour and it is recorded. It discusses the symbolism of objects in quilts made by slaves, messages in songs and the kitchen has the original objects (ice box, stove, washing board etc.) that were used during those times. The front hallway is filled with pictures and newspaper articles that describe the horrors of slavery and the Burkle family. You can’t take pictures inside but you are allowed to go into the cellar where there is a crawl space to show where they entered. Although you can stand up it is a very small space so only 4 or 5 people were allowed on the stairs and in the space at one time. It is definitely worth the $11 to see and learn about this.
The National Civil Rights Museum is attached to the Lorraine Hotel where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. The rooms where he and his companions stayed have been preserved and you can view them through glass and see out the window onto the balcony where he was assassinated. Across the street is another building that used to be the rooming house where Ray took the shot from and this room and bathroom has been preserved. In this smaller building you get to see details of the investigation, timeline, manhunt, and how they found and arrested James Earl Ray. There is even a section discussing the possibility of FBI involvement.
The National Civil Rights Museum is impressive, extensive and powerful, it covers all facets of Black history and culture from slavery until modern times including the Black Panther movement, music and art. At the beginning there is a video that describes emancipation, the amendments that granted Blacks freedom and the right to vote and the impact of Jim Crow laws. What’s most impressive is the many interactive maps that highlight important events in history, so you can tap on an area and learn what was happening then. There are the replicas of the bus Rosa Parks protested in, the lunch counter where the young people in NC protested and the bus that was burned during the freedom rides to register voters in the South. There is even a hallway that starts with the Edmund Pettis bridge and highlights the different events that occurred on the walk to Selma. There is so much information in this museum that I spent 2 hours viewing and learning and rediscovering history. Even if you’re not a lover of museums, this one has so much to offer and it is child friendly. You can take pictures throughout most of the museum and you shouldpurchase your tickets online in order to avoid the lines. The gift shop is nice and has lots of souvenirs including t-shirts, fridge magnets, books, stickers, key chains, coffee mugs and other artifacts.
Memphis is a great city that has so much to offer in terms of Black history, music and culture. I know you will enjoy your time exploring all of it as I did. However, visiting these museums was a highlight of my time in Memphis. So if you’re ever in the area you have to check out these museums because they are the predecessor of the beautiful Smithsonian NAAMHC in DC. I promise you won’t be disappointed. 🙌🏾🙌🏾🙌🏾#BlackHistoryandculture #AmericanHistory #Ilovemuseums #SlaveHavenMuseum #UndergroundRailroad #LorraineHotel #NationalCivilRightsMuseum #Memphisisawesome