Benjamin Franklin Randolph was a Black senator in South Carolina and was assassinated on October 16, 1868. Randolph held his position during the Reconstruction and was murdered at Cokesburg in Abbeville, South Carolina.
Randolph was born in Kentucky in 1820 and was the child of free African Americans. He moved with his family to Ohio as a child, where he attended school in Warren County, Ohio. He enrolled in Oberlin Preparatory & Collegiate and matriculated later at Oberlin College, studying in the Classics Department.
After school, Randolph volunteered to serve in the Civil War for the Union. He joined the 26th Regiment Infantry U.S. Colored Troops at Rikers Island, New York, where he served as chaplain. Randolph received the Regimental banner from Vincent Colyer at the unit’s commissioning ceremony in 1864. After serving in the Union, he returned to South Carolina where he joined the Freedmen’s Bureau.
I am desirous of obtaining a position among the freedmen where my qualifications and experience will admit of the most usefulness. I don’t ask position or money. But I ask a place where I can be most useful to my race. My learning and long experience as a teacher North, and my faithful service as Chaplain demand that I seek such a place. If you should obtain for me some responsible position in the Freedmen’s Bureau…you would never regret it. — B. F. Randolph
Randolph was elected as a delegate to the State Constitutional Convention of 1868 under the Reconstruction Laws set by the U.S. Congress. At the Convention, he wrote the article that authorized the first system of free public education in the state. He later ran for the Orangeburg seat in the State Senate and was elected to a four-year term.
On the night of Randolph’s assassination, he had been on an election tour. The night before, he had delivered an address at the Abbeville courthouse. Randolph took the train to Cokesburg the following day, put his luggage in the ladies’ car, and went to the train’s platform at Hodges Depot.
Three white men rode up, dismounted their horses, and shot Randolph in broad daylight. No one came forward to identify the murderers, and the three white men got away with the crime. Randolph was later buried in Columbia, South Carolina, at Randolph Cemetery, which was later named in 1871 in his memory. There are eight other African-American who also served in the State General Assembly during the Reconstruction who are buried at the cemetery.