Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Excerpt #1 - New Book on the Claude Neal Lynching

Cannady House in 1980s, before it was demolished.
My new book on the 1934 murder of Lola Cannady and lynching of Claude Neal in Jackson County is now available.

It can be ordered at the upper right of this page or purchased at Chipola River Book and Tea in Downtown Marianna.

Claude Neal was accused of raping and murdering 19-year-old Lola Cannady near Greenwood and had confessed to the crime when he was taken from a jail in Brewton, Alabama, by a group of men armed with guns and dynamite. Brought back to Jackson County, he was tortured and killed in a remote wooded area near the Parramore community in eastern Jackson County.

The FBI has opened a new investigation into the Claude Neal lynching (although apparently not into the murder of Lola Cannady) and a family member of Neal told a Tallahassee newspaper this week that his family wants $77 million dollars in compensation from either the state or federal government.

That equals out to $1 million for each year that has passed since Neal's death on October 26, 1934.

My new book is titled: The Claude Neal Lynching: The 1934 Murders of Claude Neal and Lola Cannady. It will be released in both e-book and print editions over the next two weeks.

The book is written without an agenda, political or otherwise, and offers a chronological history of the events that took place in October of 1934, giving equal attention to the deaths of both Lola Cannady and Claude Neal. Previous writings on the topic have given only scant attention to Cannady's death.

The following excerpt is from Chapter One of the new book. Please do not reprint without permission:

In the summer and fall of 2011, the United States Department of Justice opened a civil rights investigation into the 1934 lynching of Claude Neal. It was, so far as is known, the first time that agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation looked into the crime and was part of a wider investigation of as many as 100 historical crimes opened during the administration of President George W. Bush.. While funding for such efforts was reduced under President Barack Obama, the investigations have continued.
“(H)ate-crimes enforcement, and cold-case investigations in particular, remain a priority to this administration,” Justice Department Spokesperson Xochitl Hinojosa told reporters in July of 2011, “and the Civil Rights Division will devote the resources necessary to fully investigate all significant matters.” While the department would not confirm details, one of those "significant matters" was the Claude Neal lynching. FBI agents came to Jackson County where they interviewed current and former public officials and conducted records research at the Jackson County Courthouse in Marianna. Their investigation was launched seventy-seven years after the horrible events of 1934.
It was not, of course, the first time that the shadows of that fateful year lingered over Jackson County, nor will it likely be the last. The story of the Claude Neal lynching, however, is not just a story of extralegal justice in the years of the Great Depression, it is a story of violence and murder. It began when the life of a young woman named Lola Cannady was brutally taken in the farm country near Greenwood, Florida, on a clear and cool October afternoon.

Lola Cannady, ca. 1934
Lola Cannady was, by all accounts, a bright and cheerful young woman. Friendly with a kind word for all she met, she was small in stature and skinny as a rail, as were far too many of the people who lived on farms during those hard times. She was part of a large family, but pitched in and did her share of the work by feeding and watering the family hogs to take labor from the shoulders of her father and brothers while they worked in the fields. She also helped care for the house, do the family washing and cooking and look out for her youngest brother who was still too small to do heavy farm work.
Like most young people of that day and this, she enjoyed socializing with friends and is remembered even today as a pretty young woman who drew the attention of potential suitors. Her cousins Dora King, Bessie King and Clara Bell Stanley lived nearby and they often visited each other. While the girls were cousin, they were so close that they often called each other “sister.”
Much of their conversation during the late summer of 1934 was likely about Lola’s engagement to a young man in the community. She was, according to one acquaintance, “really excited and chattered about getting married like all young girls do.” The Great Depression was then in its darkest days, but despite the hard times and hunger that stalked the land, the wedding was an exciting and anticipated event for the whole extended family.
Like Acadamy Award winning actress Faye Dunaway, who was born nearby seven years after Lola’s death, the young woman dreamed of escaping the hard life of the farm. She enjoyed visiting her sister and other relatives in Tallahassee where she saw in such now routine conveniences as electric light, running water and well-stocked store shelves the promise of a better life away from the sandy peanut and cotton fields of Jackson County. She hoped one day to live in Tallahassee, possibly even find a real job there and enjoy simple luxuries that must have seemed extravagant to a young woman from the farm.
The Cannady family, like most of the other farm families of Jackson County, ate simple food and there was never enough of it. A cousin remembered meals of sweet potatoes and cornbread on visits to the weathered farmhouse. Protein was in short supply and pork chops, bacon and fried chicken were delicacies not often enjoyed. When flour could be afforded, especially after the crop came in or the season’s hogs were sold, there were biscuits and red-eye gravy. Summer brought peaches and plums, while in the fall there were scuppernongs, ripe persimmons, and green boiled peanuts, along with sugar cane and cane syrup. All of these were delicacies anticipated the year round.

I will post additional excerpts over coming days. To read more about the Neal lynching until the next post, please visit

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