The Black Guides of Mammoth Cave: A Documentary

Introductory video:

Perhaps the greatest American cave explorers ever were a trio of slaves, Stephen Bishop, Mat Bransford, and Nick Bransford who worked at Mammoth Cave prior to the Civil War. This page is about a documentary video being produced about these men, their legacy, and the long history of black guides at Mammoth Cave.



This documentary is being produced by myself (Edward Frank) and my partners:  filmmaker Phoebe Frear and best-selling author and screen writer Steven Barnes.  I am a geologist by training and have been a caver for over thirty years.  I have numerous professional publications on subjects ranging from karst geology to spelean history.  I am also a photographer, web designer, and filmmaker.  Phoebe Frear is a talented young filmmaker who has produced sort documentary and theatrical videos with her production company Elephant Trunk Films.  Steven Barnes is an award winning science fiction writer, a NY Time bestselling author, and a screen writer with his work appearing on numerous television series.   Mr. Barnes has his own production company Dark Dreams and is currently filming the short “Danger Word.”

The documentary would be approximately 50 minutes in length and done in the style of the History Channel’s “History’s Mysteries” and “Who Do You Think You Are?” on TLC.  It would include:

  1. Interviews of people knowledgeable about the history of the cave itself and the guides, the descendants of these guides, and park representatives;
  2. Scenes of library research of old documents and original editions of contemporaneous books discussing visits to the cave and accounts of the guides themselves;
  3. Visits to locations within the cave that were discovered by Stephen Bishop, Nick Bransford, and Mat Bransford;
  4. Examination of signatures left on the cave walls and ceilings by the guides and their guests;
  5. Genealogical explorations of the family trees of these men;
  6. Researching old photographs showing the heritage of the black cave guides;
  7. Visits to graveyards and historical sites in the region related to the men and their descendants.

Follow us on Twitter:  @blackcaveguides  https://twitter.com/blackcaveguides

On Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/pages/Black-Guides-of-Mammoth-Cave-A-Documentary/1407413869473058?ref=hl

Indiegogo Campaign link (Now completed)


Contact me by email for more information:

2 Responses to About

  1. Edward Forrest Frank says:

    Name: Roger Brucker
    Website: http://www.RogerBrucker.com
    Comment: African American guides of Mammoth Cave have been described as symbols of “bad” and “good” symbols of racism. Few accounts, historical or contemporary, describe their prowess as cave explorers, their discoveries as products of their curiosity and diligence, or their humanity as people of intelligence embedded in the institution of slavery. This project promises to shine the light of truth on what many have missed. “Grand, Gloomy, and Peculiar; Stephen Bishop at Mammoth Cave,” is my contribution to explain the heart of and obsession of the cave explorer — and Stephen was one of the best for many reasons.

  2. Edward Forrest Frank says:

    The above post was a comment made by cave explorer and author Roger Brucker. I reposted it here where it was intended.

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