Monday, March 3, 2014

Black history below-ground

Mammoth Cave, the longest known cave system in the world, gets about 600,000 visitors a year, 400,000 of whom are led through the caverns by a succession of men whose history dates back more than a century. Known as "Uncle Mat," Materson Bransford (IMAGE ABOVE TAKEN IN 1875) – an emancipated slave whose owner had sold 3 of his children carried a walking stick, lantern, fuel can, and a picnic basket containing lunch for his tour group. Sometimes, the guides would write the names of the tourists on the ceiling to earn extra money. Other times, the guides would scratch their own names into a wall to show where they had been. Jerry Bransford (IMAGE HERE) is Mat's great-great-grandson, which makes the 67-year-old African-American the 5th generation of his family to work as a tour guide in the world-famous Kentucky cave. Whenever I see a signature from my kin, I feel awed by what they did. But when I see Mat’s, it just knocks me down."

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