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Lynching, Murder & Mystery in Nature’s Grace: The Claude Neal Case Chattahoochee River, Jackson County, Florida on April 4, 2014 (Kristina Hurlburt-Porter.

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Presentation on theme: "Lynching, Murder & Mystery in Nature’s Grace: The Claude Neal Case Chattahoochee River, Jackson County, Florida on April 4, 2014 (Kristina Hurlburt-Porter."— Presentation transcript:


2 Lynching, Murder & Mystery in Nature’s Grace: The Claude Neal Case Chattahoochee River, Jackson County, Florida on April 4, 2014 (Kristina Hurlburt-Porter Collection)

3 The Story of Claude & Lola Nestled in the beauty of spacious field, slightly rolling hills, tall pines, large arching oak trees with Spanish moss and a wide expanse of a the Chattahoochee River. Almost 80 years ago, death came swiftly and terrifyingly for Lola Cannady, a petite white girl who was engaged to be married, and Claude Neal, a black man. Claude was immediately named her accused killer and rapist. Lola’s body was discovered on October 19, 1934 by family and community members who were searching for her. Claude’s lynching brought the national spotlight to the folks of Jackson County. The history of racial violence and white supremacy took center stage, resulting in an inquiry, calls for action, and riots. Lost in the spotlight, and spectacle of it all, was the fact that two people, who knew each other were dead. Both had met violent deaths at the hands of their killers, and the question of who those killers were is not one that has a clear answer. Their story is one of questions, murder, opportunity, and motive.

4 Claude Neal’s Lynching Claude Neal’s lynching death placed a national spotlight on Marianna, Florida. He was grabbed from a jail cell in Brewton, Alabama where six men had created a diversion to distract the sheriff in charge of his custody. The six men tortured and killed him in a wooded area in Greenwood, Florida near the home of the girl he was accused of raping and killing. Claude’s dead body was then brought to the home, where reportedly the father of Lola Cannady, shot Claude’s body. After the torture and shooting, his body was taken to the town square in Marianna, Florida, and hung from a tree to deliver a message. The message was: don’t cross the line. He was 23-years-old, married, and the father of a three-year-old daughter, Allie Mae. His wife was expecting another baby, but that pregnancy did not survive the attempt to escape with Allie Mae. Little information as to what event occurred ultimately cause harm Mrs. Neal’s pregnancy is known.

5 Crime Scene of Claude Neal’s Murder Claude was killed by a “Committee of Six,” allegedly at this tree. (Photograph credit: Tampa Bay Times). The tree’s location is difficult to get to, on the edge of the Chattahoochee River. According to Dale Cox, Jackson County Historian, the path is covered with overgrowth which has to be cut down in order to get to the tree.

6 Lola Cannady Facts 20-Years-old from the Greenwood area (some articles have her listed as 19-years-old) Daughter of a farmer Lived on property with her family adjacent to where Claude Neal lived. Active in the Bascom Baptist Church. She is buried in the Bascom Cemetery. She had just graduate high school. Engaged to be married. Discovered with her head bashed, body bruised. Found on edge of field, in a shallow grave covered by brush. Last name is often spelled as Cannidy. Her body was discovered October 19, 1934. Image Source: Tampa Bay Times, “Spectacle: The Claude Neal Lynching,” by reporter Ben Montgomery. Published October 20, 2011. (right)

7 Lola’s Story On October 18, 1934 Lola left her family home, and walked to the watering spout on the edge of the property near where the pigs were kept. She was described as a beloved family member, who was newly graduated from high school, and engaged to be married. It is said she was active in the Bascomb Baptist Church. Her body is buried at the Bascomb Cemetery. On October 19 th her bruised and battered body was discovered barely covered by brush and debris. According to police reports it was evident that she suffered a severe blow to the head, crushing her skull. Lola’s upper body showed extreme bruising, and her body showed signs of scratches that led investigators to believe she had fought for her life, and tried to escape her attackers. Two doctors examined Lola’s body after it was discovered. One said she was raped before being killed, and the other doctor disagreed. The killer did not try to hide her body well enough to cover the crime. The mystery of why her body was not well hidden, and what exactly caused the attack remains.

8 Motive Three theories concerning the mystery of Lola’s death are: 1. She was the victim of an attack by Claude over the issue of a milk cow. The Cannady family had seized the cow because Claude’s mother failed to pay off a debt. The debt was caused by her reporting the Cannady brothers for drunk and disorderly conduct Reason: According to local historian, Dale Cox, the cow was used as a lien on a loan, because Mr. Cannady had to bail his two sons out of jail. It is said Mr. Cannady felt that Claude’s mother owed him the money because she was the one who reported the brothers for the drunk and disorderly conduct. Cows were valuable during the Great Depression. 2. Lola spurned her lover, Claude. According to the NAACP reports, it was stated that they were romantically linked and she had tried to end the relationship. This claim has been reportedly refuted by both families. 3. Lola was killed by her own family members and Claude Neal paid for it with his life. This is a topic of debate and shows up on blogs and in chat rooms.

9 Cannady Family Home Family home, about ¼ mile from location of murder site. This picture shows the deteriorating state of the home. The home was later torn down. Lola’s mother weeps at the site where her daughter’s bruised and battered body was discovered. Image sources: (Left) Southern History, a blog by Jackson County author & historian, Dale Cox. (left) (Right) Photograph from Tampa Bay Times, “Spectacle: The Claude Neal Lynching,” by reporter Ben Montgomery. Published October 20, 2011. (right)

10 The Discovery of the Body of Lola Canniday Body Discovered Chronology: This list is from the Sheriff Chambliss’ diary dated Friday October 19, 1934: 6:00 AM: Notification of Missing Girl 6:30 AM: Body of girl found in woods about one-eighth of a mile southeast of water pump, with crushed head. 8:30 AM: Coroner’s jury impanelled 8:30 AM: Neal arrested on suspicion by Deputy Coulliette and brought to Marianna. He was transferred immediately to Chipley where he remained about an hour, and he was then transferred to Panama City. When arrested his watch ring was out of his watch. 9:00 AM: Watch ring found in woods near where body was found, and turned over to Sherriff that night. 9:30 AM: Dr. Hodges (county physician) makes examination of body for coroner’s jury, and reports that she had murdered-that she was bruised and lacerated. 10:00 AM: Sallie Smith, great aunt of Neal, arrested by Sherriff and placed in Chipley (Florida), and Neal’s wet clothes were taken from her house. She and Neal live in the same house. 11:00 AM: Tracks of two persons along and North and South fence discovered. One looked like a man’s track and the other like a woman’s track. Reported to Sherriff at 1:00 P.m. 12:00 Noon: Dr. MacKinnon (another local physician) makes examination of body at request of Sheriff and State Attorney and reports no signs of rape appear… 3:00 P.M.: Checked up on whereabouts of a white man named Calvin Cross, who was under suspicion, and absolved him. 4:00 P.M : Lola Cannidy buried at Bascom (Florida) Source: Anatomy of a Lynching, The Killing of Claude Neal by James McGovern, p. 44

11 Accusations & Evidence The evidence against Claude Neal was: 1.) A watch which was missing the watch ring. A watch ring matching his broken watch was reportedly discovered at the crime scene. 2.) Claude had a ripped shirt. According to the sheriff's report the bloody material found at the crime scene fit his shirt. 3.) His mother and aunt were allegedly found washing Claude’s bloodied and torn trousers. Wet clothes were removed from the house they shared at 10:00 AM on the day Lola’s body was discovered. 4.) Claude’s mother and aunt were arrested and held in connection with the case shortly after his arrest.

12 Claude Neal’s Jail Locations Claude Neal was arrested on October 18, 1934, two hours after the discovery of Lola’s body (according to He was moved to jails in the following locations: 1. Chipley (Florida) 2.Panama City (Florida) 3.Pensacola (Florida) 4.Brewton Alabama (about 142 miles from the original site Greenwood, Florida). October 26, 1934 a mob reported to be of 100 people grabbed Claude from his jail cell after creating a diversion. Sherriff Chambliss discovered Claude’s body on October 27 th.

13 1934 Newspaper Clippings-Calls for Investigation Regarding Claude Neal’s Lynching Death Above: a sample of articles recorded by the Tuskegee Institute; archival evidence collection on micro film at the University of South Florida-St. Petersburg, FL.

14 The Night Claude Neal Was Kidnapped From Brewton, Alabama The events of the night of October 26 th a mob of reportedly 100 people traveled 142 miles to Brewton, Alabama to where Claude was being held. They kidnapped Claude, and a “Committee of Six” took him to a remote location on the edge of the Chattahoochee River. At the time of the kidnapping Sherriff Chambliss, and Deputy Dave Ham were transporting two bank robbers to their jail cell after a trial. During the court trial someone had slipped a gun to one of the bank robbers. One bank robber shot Deputy Ham, and a shoot-out began. As a result of the shoot-out, Sherriff Chambliss was able to proceed with the unwounded bank robber to jail. The deputy and the other bank robber were taken to the hospital in Marianna, Florida.

15 Maps This map shows the South East of the United States, and the red dot is Marianna, Florida. Marianna serves as the seat of Jackson County, and is the location of where the body of Claude Neal was hung from a tree in the center of town. The town is also the location of the 1934 riots that followed his lynching. Source: Florida.html

16 Map of Route from Greenwood, Florida to Brewton, Alabama. The mob traveled 142 miles each way, for a total of 282 miles, to grab Claude Neal from his jail cell on October 26, 1934 d37 d37 Click on this link and turn by turn instructions are available.

17 Jackson County Racial History Jackson County had a long history of lynching and murder African Americans. Disregard for the law was firmly in place. From 1868-1870 according to research, 150 African Americans were murdered in Jackson County. In the same era, it is said that the sheriff was afraid to serve warrants on in Marianna, and more terrified to venture out of the town limits. McGovern further highlights the tradition of lawlessness when he states: “There were numerous murders in the county, many for trivial reasons. Between November, 1933 and July 1934, newspapers reporter nine trials for murder or assault to commit murder. In one instance a man shot a policeman for hitting his son after arresting him for drunkenness, and in another a boy was shot while deliver papers by a man who suspected he was a chicken thief” (McGovern p. 31).

18 Images of the Past “T he occasion when this mid 1920's photograph was taken is uncertain, except that it was a commemorative gathering of veterans of the Confederacy and their families. Some of those in the photo are of the family of a Confederate veteran, Lovette Jackson, shown second from right. This may have possibly been an United Confederate Veterans reunion from September 26-29, 1927.” Source:

19 A Look at How Claude Neal Died Emory Associate Professor of African American Studies Carol Anderson tells the story of horrific abuse in this installment of the video series "The Hidden History of the Quest for Civil Rights." Please note the story contains graphic details."The Hidden History of the Quest for Civil Rights." To view the presentation please follow the link below by using ctrl and right click

20 PBS Documentary & Point of View To view the complete story provided by PBS Click on the following link by pressing ctrl & clicking at the same time.

21 Riots & Calls for Investigation The mayor of Marianna, Florida had to call the governor of the state for National Guard assistance in the weeks following Claude Neal’s lynching. The NAACP investigator, Walter White, helped to develop a anti-lynching bill that was passed in the House, but failed in the Senate. He had the support of Mrs. Roosevelt, but not President Roosevelt. Part of the reason for the lack of support is the southern- controlled Senate would not have cooperated with The New Deal of the anti-lynching law was passed.

22 Demand for Justice: Below is a sample of a news article from 10/28/1034 Source: Tuskegee Institute Papers (on microfilm), University of South Florida-St. Peterburg, archival collection

23 CNN Opinion Comparison Between Trayvon Martin Case & Claude Neal Lynching Please click on this link to find the article by using ctrl and right click. kerson-trayvon/index.html?iref=allsearch kerson-trayvon/index.html?iref=allsearch

24 Tampa Bay Times, “Spectacle: The Lynching of Claude Neal” by Ben Montgomery Below is a link to the article by renowned reporter and author, Ben Montgomery. Mr. Montgomery presents an encompassing perspective on the case. This article was published October 20, 2011, which was 77 years after the lynching of Claude Neal. Source: of-claude-neal/1197360

25 Local Historian’s Blog, Book, and Research Creating a Local View Point Dale Cox, a local Jackson County historian and writer published a book in 2012 after years of research into the case. He also maintains a blog, and specializes in Southern History. Below is a link to Mr. Cox’s blog. Please press ctrl and right click to access this blog. investigating.html

26 Rumors and Fact A debate rages on one blog (link is in blue below). A writer, listed as “O Williams” claims to be the relative of Claude Neal. His accusations are that it was not Claude who killed Lola, but Lola’s own family members. The writer on the blog says the family has evidence that will clear Claude. To see the debate press ctrl and right click on the link below (warning the responses are emotionally charged, and from some of the family members involved of Claude Neal, Lola Cannady, and family members of the lynch mob):

27 Restorative Justice The FBI was given powers to investigate cases such as Claude Neal’s by President George W. Bush to help bring restorative justice to victim’s families. The fund created in the early 1990s by President Bush is set up to provide some type of compensation and restore justice to both sides of the cases based on the outcomes of the FBI investigations. The process of restorative justice involves examining the crime, the laws broken, and working to develop some type of reconciliation with all stakeholders involved. The particular fund set up by President Bush focuses on Civil Rights cases. Orlando Williams, the nephew of Allie Mae (Claude’s daughter) has fought for years to get an investigation opened by the FBI and clear his family’s name. The FBI investigation was opened just before Ben Montgomery’s article was published by the Tampa Times. You can find Mr. Montgomery’s article, and the discussion on Mr. Williams fight for justice, by pressing ctrl and clicking on the link: lynching-of-claude-neal/1197360 lynching-of-claude-neal/1197360

28 Memory What remains of the case are books, speculation, blogs, and records of Lola’s death and Claude’s lynching. When using google, and typing in the name Claude Neal 6.29 million hits are returned. When typing in Lola Cannady to the same search engine 21,00 hits are returned. Lola’s tragic and violent death has been overshadowed by Claude’s lynching. Pictures of Claude’s body hanging from the tree in Marianna sold for 50 cents, and sparked national outrage ( reference: Montgomery, Ben, Tampa Bay Times). Howard (“Buck”) Kester, investigator for NAACP investigator, named three men in his report. Griffin, Carter, and Brown. It was believed that the three men were not directly involved in the lynching of Claude Neal. (Montgomery, Ben, Tampa Bay Times).

29 Justice: The Family of Claude Neal met in late 2010 at this AME Church, in Greenwood, Florida to discuss the case. Allie Mae Neal’s nephew, Orlando Williams worked for 25 years to get the case re-opened by the FBI. It was here that he hoped to learn more about the case and what family members could recall. According to the article By Ben Montgomery a family reunion was held near this church where amongst the barbecue was talk of the case. (Reference: Montgomery, Ben, Tampa Bay Times) Photo by Kristina Hurlburt-Porter, taken April 4, 2014

30 Sources Anderson, Carol. "The Spectacle Lynching of Claude Neal." Emory University. Web. 4 Apr. 2014. Cox, Dale. “The Claude Neal Lynching-Marianna and Jackson County.” Dale Cox, 1 Jan. 2012. Web. 28 Mar. 2014. "Freedom Never Dies: The Legacy of Harry T. Moore, Claude Neal Lynching." PBS, 1 Jan. 2000. Web. 7 Apr. 2014. McGovern, James R. Anatomy of a Lynching: The Killing of Claude Neal. Louisiana State University Press, 1992. Print. Montgomery, Ben. "Spectacle: The Lynching of Claude Neal." Tampa Bay Times, 20 Oct. 2011. Web. 22 Mar. 2014. the-lynching-of-claude-neal/1197360. the-lynching-of-claude-neal/1197360 Wilkerson, Isabel. "Trayvon‘ s Killing and Florida's Tragic Past." CNN, 26 03 2014. Web. 17 Apr 2014.

31 Image Credits & Sources Chattahoochee River, Slide 1. Photograph by: Kristina Hurlburt-Porter Tree, Slide 4: Photograph by: Tampa Bay Times. "Spectacle: The Lynching of Claude Neal." Tampa Bay Times, 20 Oct. 2011. Web. 22 Mar. 2014. Lola Cannady, Slide 6: From Tampa Bay Times. "Spectacle: The Lynching of Claude Neal." Tampa Bay Times, 20 Oct. 2011. Web. 22 Mar. 2014. Cannady Family Home, Slide 8: Cox, Dale. “The Claude Neal Lynching-Marianna and Jackson County.” Dale Cox, 1 Jan. 2012. Web. 28 Mar. 2014. Lola Cannady’s mother, Slide 8: “Spectacle: The Lynching of Claude Neal." Tampa Bay Times, 20 Oct. 2011. Web. 22 Mar. 2014. Newspaper Clipping, Slide 12: Tuskegee Institute, on microfilm, University of South Florida –St. Petersburg, Archival Collection

32 Images Credits & Sources, Continued Map: slide #13, Source: web. 4 April 2014. Map: slide #14, Source web. 4 April 2014. Confederate Flag : Slide #16: Source: web. 16 April 2014. Video : Slide # 17: Source: Anderson, Carol. "The Spectacle Lynching of Claude Neal." Emory University. Web. 4 Apr. 2014. PBS Documentary Article Image: Slide #18: Source: web.10 April 2014. Newspaper Clippings Slide # 20, Slide 12: Tuskegee Institute, on microfilm, University of South Florida –St. Petersburg, Archival Collection CNN Story: Slide 21:Wilkerson, Isabel. "Trayvon‘ s Killing and Florida's Tragic Past." CNN, 26 03 2014. Web. 17 Apr 2014. Church: Slide 27: Kristina Hurlburt-Porter Photograph

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