Strangers to Us All Lawyers and Poetry

Robert Charles O'Hara Benjamin

Kentucky, New York, California

Lawyer, journalist, educator, poet

Robert Benjamin, an African American, "[a]ttended Trinity College in Oxford, Virginia. Studied law with Kentucky State Attorney Dave Smith and with Josiah Patterson of Memphis, Tennessee. Worked as a soliciting agent for New York Star, city editor of the Progressive American, letter carrier in New York Post Office for helping in Rutherford B. Hayes' campaign, school teacher in Kentucky and Arkansas, principal of high school in Decatur, Alabama, editor of the Negro American in Birmingham, Alabama. Owned and edited the Colored Citizen in Pittsburgh and the Chronicle in Evansville, Indiana." [M. Marie Booth Foster, Southern Black Creative Writers, 1829-1953: Biobiliographies 4 (New York: Greenwood press, 1988)]

Benjamin was reputedly the first African American to establish a law firm in Alabama. [John Clay Smith, Emancipation: The Making of the Black Lawyer, 1844-1944 272 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1993). He was the first black lawyer in Los Angeles, and the first to practice in the California courts. [See: Douglass Flamming, Bound for Freedom 24 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005); Delilah L. Beasley, The Negro Trail Blazers of California 195 (Los Angeles, 1919]

Benjamin was murdered in 1900, in Lexington, Kentucky. [The details of his death are reported in Joe Drape, Black Mastro: The Epic Life of an American Legend 78-79 (New York: William Morrow & Co., 2006)]

R.C.O. Benjamin
Notable Kentucky African Americans Database
University of Kentucky Libraries

Robert Charles O'Hara Benjamin
Delilah L. Beasley, The Negro Trail Blazers of Califonria 195-196
(Los Angeles, 1919)


A Visit to R.C.O. Benjamin's Grave


R.C.O. Benjamin, Poetic Gems (Charlottesville, Virginia: Peck & Allan, printers, 1883)


R.C.O. Benjamin, Life of Toussaint L'Ouverture: Warrior and Statesman ([Los Angeles: Evening Express Print Co., 1888) [online text]

______________, The Defender of Obadiah Cuff *

______________, Southern Outrages: A Statistical Record of Lawless Doings (1894)

______________, Ethnography of the Origin of the Negro; Giving a History and Scientific Account of the Origin of Other Races (Lexington, Kentucky: Lexington Standard Office, 1899)**

_______________, Don't: A Book for Girls (San Francisco: Valleau & Peterson, 1891)

* Title listed in M. Marie Booth Foster, Southern Black Creative Writers, 1829-1953: Biobiliographies 4 (New York: Greenwood press, 1988) without further publication information or identification. We do not find this title in OCLC.

** This title was found in a 1992 message to a list-serve. There is no OCLC listing for this title.

Research Resources

James D. Hart, A Companion to California (New York: Oxford University Press, 1978)

William J. Simmons, Men of Mark: Eminent, Progressive and Rising (1887).