From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)
R C O Benjamin and family.pdf

Benjamin, R. C. O.

(born: 1855  -  died: 1900) 

Robert Charles O'Hara Benjamin was shot in the back and died in Lexington, KY, in 1900, killed at the Irishtown Precinct by Michael Moynahan, a Democrat precinct worker. The shooting occurred after Benjamin objected to African Americans being harassed while attempting to register to vote.

When the case went to court, Moynahan claimed self-defense, and the case was dismissed. Benjamin, born in St. Kitts, had become a U.S. citizen in the 1870s; he had come to New York in 1869, having lived in a number of locations in the U.S.

For a brief period, Benjamin taught school in Kentucky and studied law. He was a journalist, author, lawyer (the first African American lawyer in Los Angeles), educator, civil rights activist, public speaker, and poet, and had also been a postal worker in New York City. In addition to being a journalist, Benjamin also edited and owned some of the newspapers where he was employed.

Between 1855-1894, he authored at least six books and a number of other publications, including Benjamin's Pocket History of the American Negro, The Zion Methodist, Poetic Gems, Don't: a Book for Girls; and the public address The Negro Problem, and the Method of its Solution. He became wealthy from his many endeavors. 

In 1897, Benjamin returned to Kentucky with his wife, Lula M. Robinson, and their two children. There he organized the Independent Negro Political Leagues [source: Semi-weekly Interior Journal, 9/28/1897, p. 1]. Benjamin was also  editor of the Lexington Standard newspaper.

The first bust that Isaac S. Hathaway sculpted was that of R. C. O. Benjamin.

For more information see Robert Charles O'Hara Benjamin, by G. C. Wright in the American National Biography Online (subscription database); and "R. C. O. Benjamin," Negro History Bulletin, vol. 5, issue 4 (January 1942), pp. 92-93.

Kentucky County & Region

Read about Fayette County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Kentucky Place (Town or City)

Read about Lexington, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Outside Kentucky Place Name

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Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Benjamin, R. C. O.,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed May 28, 2024,

Last modified: 2024-02-11 16:11:09