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Mammoth Cave's African-American Heritage | Kentucky Life | KET


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Mammoth Cave began offering public tours in 1816. From the start, African Americans played a vital role in the development of cave tour routes and shaping the experiences of cave visitors. Many of the first guides were slaves—among them, Jerry Bransford’s great-great-grandfather.

Bransford, a native of Glasgow, is the fifth generation of his family to work as a guide at Mammoth Cave. His great-great-grandfather Materson Bransford explored the cave as a teenager before becoming a guide. Since the 1990s, Jerry Bransford has been leading cave tours and sharing details about the cave and the legacy of the early guides.

A 2014 New York Times essay earlier this year, “A Family at the Center of the Earth,” tells the story of Bransford’s family heritage. Bransford, for whom guiding tours at Mammoth obviously runs in the blood, is proud to share the legacy and story of the African-American heritage of Kentucky’s world-famous natural wonder.

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Parts of this segment were originally recorded for the 2009 KET production “Kentucky’s National Parks.”

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