Black Guides of Mammoth Cave

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In 1838 three slaves were brought to Mammoth Cave to work as guides: Stephen Bishop, Materson Bransford, and Nick Bransford.  Stephen Bishop became the greatest American Cave explorer who ever lived.  He crossed what was known as the Bottomless Pit and discovered tens of miles of new passage in what is known now as the longest cave in the world.  The trio spent a lifetime leading tours and exploring new passages in the cave.  Many other black individuals have made major contributions to the history of the cave over the years. Leading tours in the cave and exploration became a family tradition for generations of guides both black and white. For example, the Bransford family has had five  generations work as guides in the cave from Mat Bransford, one of the original three slave guides, to his great great grandson and present day guide Jerry Bransford. This is their story.

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