Benjamin As An African American Last Name

The 2010 U.S. Census recorded 16,877 black Americans with Benjamin as their last name. That represented 42% of the total of 40,590 entries.

This article tracks their numbers in the census since the Civil War. We also look at historic African American people named Benjamin.

We end with a review of early records of black military service in the United States.

After Emancipation

The 1870 census was the first survey after the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation. In 1850 and 1860, only free African Americans were recorded in the census. The many enslaved were omitted.

From 1870 onward, all black Americans were included.

1,232 people named Benjamin were recorded in the 1870 census as black and 115 as mixed.

There was a total of 6,589 people with the name.

Benjamin In The 1900 And 1940 Census

The mixed category was dropped from the census in 1900, so we just need to look at the black numbers this time.

The 1900 census recorded 2,099 people with the last name Benjamin as black within a total of 9,285 that year.

By the way, the mixed category returned in the 1910 and 1920 censuses. It was dropped again in 1930, but replaced with extra categories for colored and non-white in a way that seems confusing now.

This changed again in 1940 and we can simply focus on one black category.

The 1940 census recorded 4,733 people named Benjamin as black within a total of 17,822.

Historic Black Figures With The Benjamin Surname

Here is a notable African American in history with Benjamin as their last name.

Robert Benjamin

  • Born: 1855
  • From: St. Kitts
  • Died: 1900

Robert Charles O’Hara Benjamin was born in St Kitts and spent his teens in England where he attended Oxford University. He emigrated to New York in 1869.

Benjamin worked for a considerable number of black newspapers in different states. He co-founded a black college in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1887. He also studied law and was called to the bar in several states.

Benjamin was an advocate against lynchings and other brutality against African Americans. In 1900, he was active in getting African Americans to vote in Lexington, Kentucky, where he had moved with his family.

Benjamin intervened when a white man tried to harass some black voters. Later that day, this man went to Benjamin’s house and shot him in the back six times.

Miriam Benjamin

  • Born: 1861
  • From: Charleston, South Carolina
  • Died: 1947

Miriam Benjamin’s family moved from Charleston to Boston where she graduated from high school in 1881. She worked as a teacher before studying law and becoming an attorney.

In the late 1880s, Miriam invented a special chair for use in hotels. It had a button that would ring a gong and swivel a multi-colored ball to display the red side outward. This would allow hotel staff to attend to someone looking for assistance without the need for the customer to clap or shout.

Miriam obtained a patent for what she called the Gong and Signal Chair in 1888. That makes her one of the first African American women to secure a patent. Her invention was displayed at the Cotton States and International Exposition of 1895.

Other Inventors

Here are some other early black female inventors:

Benjamin In Black Military Records

Military records are a rich resource of information for family history research. Here are examples of the Benjamin surname from military service.

Buffalo Soldiers

Five regiments for black soldiers were formed during the Civil War. They were known as the Buffalo Soldiers.

Their records are part of the national archive of military monthly returns. The information includes the year and place of birth, where they enlisted, their occupation, and their height.

One of the earliest military entries for Benjamin was in August 1873. Robert Benjamin was a Recruit in the U.S. Ninth Cavalry. He was stationed in August 1873 at Fort McKavett, Texas.

Another entry was in February 1910. Gabe Benjamin was a Private in the U.S. Ninth Cavalry.

If you are researching military ancestors, there is a free index of these records on and

You have to create an account on either website, but you do not need to pay for the Buffalo Soldiers archive.

Black Civil War Sailors

The National Parks Service has a free archive of African American sailors during the Civil War.

The information includes their age, height, rank, occupation, and where and when they enlisted. It also includes every ship that they served on.

You can search the database on the National Parks website.

Edward A. Benjamin

One of the earliest entries for Benjamin was for Edward A. Benjamin from New Haven, Connecticut. He enlisted in July 1862 at New London when he was aged 18.

The record shows that Edward A. was assigned on March 1864 to the ship St. Clair.

His occupation before enlisting was as a Waiter/Laborer. His naval rank was 1st Class Boy.

“1st Class Boy” was the rank given to young men who enlisted when they were under eighteen.

George T. Benjamin

One of the later entries was for a sailor who enlisted at New York in May 1864. George T. was aged 34 and was from Brunswick, New Jersey.

He was assigned to the ship Oneida on January 1865. His occupation before enlisting was as a Laborer.