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Local Film Makers' Documentary:Black Guides of Mammouth Cave

Edward Frank has been exploring caves for 30 years. On today's show, he talks about his current project... a documentary about one of the most famous caves in the world.

Edward Frank has been exploring caves for 30 years. On today's show, he talks about his current project... a documentary about one of the most famous caves in the world. The 50 minute video is entitled, "The Black Guides of Mammoth Cave: A Documentary."

Frank is from Reynoldsville, PA. His fellow film makers Phoebe Frear, from Williamsport, and award winning author Steven Barnes, are producing this documentary.

"We are part way through the production and have completed a scouting trip with preliminary shots in the cave and conducted initial interviews of several people who will be featured in the completed video," said Frank. "Jerry Bransford, for example, is a seasonal guide at the cave and is the fifth generation of his family to work as a guide at the cave. The story really begins in 1837 when Franklin Gorin, a businessman from Glasgow Kentucky purchased the cave. He brought to the cave three slaves to serve as guides and to work on the grounds: Stephen Bishop, Nick Bransford, and Materson Bransford. Materson was Jerry Bransford's great-great-grandfather. These men were the first great explorers of the cave, as well as guides. Mammoth Cave now stands at 400 miles of explored, interconnected, surveyed passage making it by far the longest cave in the world."

"People vaguely know that the early guides and explorers made Mammoth Cave famous world-wide, but few realize the important contribution that former slaves and their descendants made to that exploration effort. Both black and white guides worked together at the cave until 1939, when Louis Bransford, Jerry's uncle, was forced to retire from the guide service when the National Park Service took over. He was the last black guide to leave the guide corps after 100 years of continuous service by his family. In 2004 when Jerry took a job as a seasonal guide, he became the first Bransford to lead a tour into the cave for 65 years. This isn't just a story about black history, it is a story about American history. It is a story that deserves to be told on screen," Frank explained.

If you would like to help bring this story to light, the film makers are raising money to fund their project online. Check out their website and blog for more information.

"We are starting an Indegogo fund raising project on February 14th, and the suggested dates would correspond to start of the fund raising effort," said Frank. "The video will be completed in any case, not matter how much or how little money is raised the film will be completed. The primary shooting will take place in the first week in August, with the film scheduled for completion by the end of 2014."

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