Downtown African American Heritage Signage Program

R.C.O. Benjamin -
Standing Up for Racial Justice

Sign #1 400 W Main Street

As a journalist and lawyer, Robert Charles O’Hara Benjamin was a vocal critic of racial violence and voter intimidation. Born on St. Kitts in 1855, Benjamin traveled and practiced law throughout the U.S. He was the first African-American admitted to the California Bar Association, later settling in Lexington in 1897. He vigorously challenged Jim Crow practices in his writings, legal cases, and activities of daily life.

Robert Charles O'Hara Benjamin

On October 2, 1900, Benjamin confronted a white poll-worker at Precinct 32 nicknamed “Old Bloody B” on the corner of Spring and Water. Michael Moynihan was harassing African-Americans trying to register to vote. After assaulting Benjamin, Moynihan was arrested and released. That night Moynihan went to Benjamin’s house – located at 60 W. Main Street – and shot him in the back. Moynihan plead not-guilty by self-defense, and Benjamin’s murder case was dismissed.

Benjamin Family Portrait

See Sign #2 275 S. Limestone Street

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