From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

Bishop, Stephen

(born: 1821  -  died: 1857) 

Stephen Bishop was 17 years old in 1838 when both he and Mammoth Cave were purchased by Franklin Gorin, a Kentucky attorney. A year later, they were both sold to Dr. John Croghan.

Bishop, the first African American cave explorer, was the first guide and explorer of Mammoth Cave, the world's longest cave system. He knew the cave system better than all others, which made him a responsible tour guide. He also made a published map of the cave.

After receiving his freedom, Bishop had planned to take his wife Charlotte and their son to live in Liberia, Africa, but he died before he could do so. Stephen Bishop is buried in the cemetery near the entrance to Mammoth Cave.

For more see Kentucky's Black Heritage, by the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights; The Encyclopedia of Louisville, ed. by J. E. Kleber; J. C. Schmitzer, "The sable guides of Mammoth Cave," Filson Club History Quarterly, 1993, vol. 67, issue 2, pp. 240-258; "Stephen Bishop" at the U.S. National Park Service websiteJoy Lanzendorfer, "Enslaved Tour Guide Stephen Bishop Made Mammoth Cave the Must-See Destination It Is TodayMust-See Destination It Is Today," Smithsonian Magazine 2/6/2019; and "Famous Cave Explorer Stephen Bishop," on the Mammoth Cave National Park YouTube channel, 5/20/2020.

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Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Bishop, Stephen,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed May 20, 2024,

Last modified: 2022-02-23 17:05:25