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Socialist Appeal, 10 February 1940

The Lynching of Claude Neal

How Democracy Works in the Sunny South

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. IV No. 6, 10 February 1940, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


What does the Anti-Lynching Bill, to go before the Senate February 6, seek to prevent? What is a lynching? It is a murder by a mob, you will say. But in terms of human feelings, in more than dictionary words, what is a lynching?

The lynching of Claude Neal in 1934 was not in any important respect exceptional. The crowd was not unusually brutal. The lynched man did not suffer more than most victims. It was, we may say, a typical lynching. The NAACP has published a brochure describing in some detail the mob-murder of this Negro, an account that gives every evidence of being carefully checked at every point. What follows is a summary of that account.

“On October 19, 1934, Claude Neal, 23, of Greenwood, Florida was arrested by Deputy Sheriff J.P. Couliette for the murder of Lola Cannidy, 20, a white girl also of Greenwood, Florida ... It is alleged that a confession was wrung from Neal and that he assumed entire responsibility for the crime. Sheriff W.F. Chambliss ... ordered Neal to be taken to Chipley, Florida, for safekeeping, a distance of about 20 miles ...

“From the moment that Neal was arrested a bloodthirsty mob relentlessly pursued him.

“The angry mood of the crowd at Chipley caused the sheriff there to remove Neal to Panama City. From Panama City he was taken by boat to Pensacola. From Pensacola Neal was taken across the Florida line to Brewton, Alabama – a distance of 61 miles ...

“An armed mob of approximately 100 men stormed the county jail at Brewton on the morning of October 26. Neal was seized after Mike Shanholster, the jailer, unlocked his cell door, and was brought screaming and crying and placed in the front car in front of the county jail. The mob had triumphed ...

Radio Broadcast Calls Lynching Party

“According to a member of the mob with whom I talked, Claude Neal was lynched in a lonely spot about four miles from Greenwood ... Due to the great number of people who wanted to participate in the lynching, the original mob which secured Neal from the jail at Brewton evidently decided that if all of the niceties of a modern Twentieth Century lynching were to be inflicted upon Neal it would be. unwise for a larger mob to handle the victim. They preferred that his last hours on earth be filled with the greatest possible humiliation and agony. However, the word was passed all over Northeastern Florida and Southeastern Alabama that there was to be a ‘lynching party to which all white people are invited,’ near the Cannidy home Friday night. It is also reported that the information was broadcast from the radio station at Dothan, Alabama ...

“A member of the lynching party with whom I talked described the lynching in all of its ghastliness, down to the minutest detail:

“‘After taking the nigger to the woods about four miles from Greenwood, they cut off his penis. He was made to eat it. Then they cut off his testicles and made him eat them and say he liked it.’ (I gathered that this barbarous act consumed considerable time and that other means of torture were used from time to time on Neal.)

Finally They Decided Just to Kill Him

“‘Then they sliced his sides and stomach with knives and every now and then somebody would cut off a finger or toe. Red hot irons were used on the nigger to burn him from top to bottom.’ From time to time during the torture a rope would be tied around Neal’s neck and he was pulled up over a limb and held there until he almost choked to death, when he would be let down and the torture begun all over again. After several hours of this unspeakable torture, ‘they decided just to kill him.’

“Neal’s body was tied to a rope on the rear of an automobile and dragged over the highway to the Cannidy home. Here a mob estimated to number somewhere between 3,000 and 7,000 people from eleven southern states was excitedly waiting his arrival. When the car which was dragging Neal’s body came in front of the Cannidy home, a man who was riding the rear bumper cut the rope.

“‘A woman came out of the Cannidy house and drove a butcher knife into his heart. Then the crowd came by and some kicked him and some drove their cars over him.’

“... The body, which by this time was horribly mutilated, was taken by the mob to Marianna, ... where it was hung to a tree on the northeast corner of the courthouse square. Pictures were taken of the mutilated form and hundreds of photographs were sold for fifty cents each ... Fingers and toes from Neal’s body have been exhibited as souvenirs ...

“The body was cut down about eight-thirty Saturday morning, October 27 ... Toward noon a white man struck a Negro who sought to defend himself and in the struggle with the white man, hurled a pop bottle at him ... The Negro finally tore himself away from the mob (that gathered) and ran across the street and into the courthouse, where he was given protection by a friendly group of white men. The mob clamored for another victim ... and began a systematic attempt to drive all Negroes from the town. ‘Saturday was a day of terror and madness, never to be forgotten by anyone.’ ...

Economic Background of That Lynching

“It is claimed that a large number of those who participated in the rioting in Marianna on Saturday, October 27, had been on the county relief rolls for some time. Relief had been cut off about two weeks before the lynching occurred ... An organization known as the Jackson county FERA Purification League headed by W. Pooser led a demonstration through the streets of Marianna on the Saturday preceding the lynching ...

“‘This lynching was a surface eruption. The basic cause was economic ... The lynching had two objects, first, to intimidate and threaten the white employers of Negro labor and secondly to scare and terrorize the Negroes so that they would leave the county and their jobs could be taken over by white men.’

“‘There are too many niggers and too many white people looking for the same job.’”

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