Memphis museum director discusses push for June 19 holiday

“The first people on this Earth were born in Africa, that’s why it’s important for them to acquire this background,” she said.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – “At the top is Harriet Tubman, she wasn’t happy to be free herself, she went back South 19 times,” Slave Haven Underground Railroad Museum director Elaine Lee said Friday. Turner, to a group. of visitors.

If you step inside the museum, you take a step back to revisit the past, the one afflicted by slavery.

“When I was growing up and going to school, I didn’t learn that history,” Turner said.

It refers to the history of Africa.

“It’s a missing piece in America’s history,” she said.

She has dedicated the past 27 years to filling in these missing pieces.

“The first people on this Earth were born in Africa, that’s why it’s important for them to acquire this background,” she said.

The museum, originally the Burkel estate, was used to hide slaves in the mid-1800s.

Jacob Burkle, a German immigrant, was among the members of the anti-slavery movement who risked their lives to help Africans flee by sheltering them in their homes and helping them on their journey to freedom.

Stockyard owner Burkle operated an Underground Railroad station on the outskirts of Memphis from about 1855 until the abolition of slavery.

Below the historic house is still a cellar, where escaped slaves hid in the hideout. The runaways then traveled to freedom in the north when it was safe.

Such a story right here in Memphis is often overlooked. Turner said her passion is educating young people so they are inspired to play their part in defending everyone’s freedoms.

“If they knew their past, they would know the contributions of people who came before them and paved the way,” Turner said.

June 19 was declared a federal holiday last year, signed into law by President Joe Biden. Now, legislation from Governor Bill Lee to make it a holiday is also in the works.

The museum director said that as long as there is the 4th of July, which African Americans celebrate, a recognized day that effectively liberated black people should be declared here in Tennessee.

“Juneteenth should definitely be that day,” she explained. “A day that not only African Americans can celebrate, but all white Americans and everyone can say that we have finally granted freedom to those we have enslaved for all these hundreds of years.”

Turner explained why she thinks the holiday took hundreds of years to gain recognition.

“It’s a part of African history that a majority of the white community didn’t want to acknowledge. Once you acknowledge something, you’re inclined to do something about it.

Rep. Karen Camper, who is championing the Juneteenth bill, said the legislation would allow Tennessees to be more open about their cultural lens.

She said the bill is expected to be discussed in subcommittee next week.

About Carlos V. Mitchell

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