African American News and Genealogy

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Sunday, April 09, 2006

When the push for black vote got violent

By Merlene Davis HERALD-LEADER COLUMNIST There are many questions about the accomplishments and travels of Robert Charles O'Hara Benjamin, but his death is well-documented. Benjamin was shot in the back at what was then the corner of Spring and Water streets in Lexington on October 2, 1900, by Michael Moynahan. Moynahan, a white Democrat and precinct worker, was challenging black voters who were trying to register. Benjamin, a black Republican lawyer, newspaper editor, poet, minister, and traveler, was determined to help blacks cast a ballot. Benjamin spoke out when Moynahan asked questions of the black people trying to register at a local precinct. On a second visit to the precinct, the two men argued and Moynahan followed Benjamin outside and shot him. "There was an inquest," said Lexington native George Wright, president of Prairie View A&M University in Prairie View, Texas. "Benjamin's death was ruled justifiable homicide even though he was shot in the back. ... Black life had very little value back in that time when whites made certain allegations. "It (Benjamin's death) just had no meaning," Wright continued. "They were lynched for any reason or no reason. Benjamin's death reflects that." Wright has been researching Benjamin's life for a book, although his responsibilities as president of a university have slowed that research a lot. Full Story:


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