Friday, November 4, 2011

Excerpt #2 - The Claude Neal Lynching (New Book)

Cannady house in late 1980s prior to its demolition.
The following is a second excerpt from my new book on the Claude Neal lynching, which took place in 1934 in Jackson County.

As I noted on October 22nd, the U.S. Department of Justice has opened a new investigation of the lynching and an FBI agent has been in the county looking at records and trying to locate potential witnesses. Please click here to read the original story.

Claude Neal, who also went by the alias Claud Smith, lived with his mother, great-aunt and common-law wife in a frame home a couple of miles north of Greenwood. In October of 1934, he was accused in the brutal slaying of a 19-year-old woman named Lola Cannady. She had been raped and beaten to death with a hammer.

Neal was arrested and, as law enforcement tried to protect him from outraged citizens, was moved to four different jails in Florida and Alabama. The effort to insure his safety failed, however, and he was taken from the jail in Brewton, Alabama, by a group of men carrying guns and dynamite. Carried back to Jackson County, Claude Neal was tortured and killed in a remote wooded area near today's Parramore Landing Park.  Please click here to read more.

My new book on the topic - The Claude Neal Lynching: The 1934 Murders of Claude Neal and Lola Cannady - will be released shortly. As promised, here is another excerpt from the book.  Please click here to read Excerpt #1.

Please do not reprint or otherwise publish this excerpt without contacting me for permission. Thanks!


Excerpt #2
The Claude Neal Lynching: The 1934 Murders of Claude Neal and Lola Cannady
by Dale Cox
(Coming November 2011)

Site of the Cannady house as it appears today.
Many modern writers have proclaimed 1934 as a time of great racism in Jackson County and a time when tense racial relations prevailed in the Cannady neighborhood. This was not true. The Cannady family was on good terms with the African Americans of their neighborhood. Sallie Smith lived in a weather-beaten house just up the road and members of the Smith, Long and Neal families lived in similar homes scattered around the vicinity. The Smith home was a bustling place, not unlike the neighboring Cannady house. Living with Smith was her recently widowed niece, Annie Smith, the mother of Claude Neal. Claude also lived in the old house, as did his common-law-wife and his three-year-old daughter.

The Cannady and Smith/Neal families were friendly. George Cannady’s children, including Lola, had grown up playing and later working along-side members of Sally Smith’s extended family. Two of the Cannady daughters were about the same age as Claude Neal and knew him well. When he was named as a suspect in Lola’s murder, her sister expressed shock and confusion at the allegation:

…I’d just like to see the man who did this just once. I can’t understand what the motive was for this brutal deed. To think that Claude Neal, who had been raised with my sister and me and worked for us all his life, could do such a thing – it is unbelievable. I only wish that every resident of Jackson County could view the body of my sister. (7)

As Lola’s sister told a local newspaper report, the children had been raised together and Claude even worked at times for the Cannady family. He helped with heavy farm labor during the planting and picking seasons, maintained fences and did whatever else George needed and could afford. The families, in fact, lived very much alike. Their homes were weathered and sagging under the weight of the years, but the yards were swept and clean of grass or weeds. They lived on cornbread and sweet potatoes, with a bit of pork or chicken thrown in now and then. Syrup, plums and scuppernongs were favorite sweets and they washed with lye soap made using the ashes from their fireplaces. In the winter, cold wind blew through the cracks in the walls and in the summer the heat was so intolerable that “siestas” were commonly taken on the front porch through the middle part of the day.
Site of Sallie Smith's house as it appears today.
Both families were made up of hard working people who were suffering through the greatest economic catastrophe that America had ever known. The debate over whether blacks or whites should receive government relief jobs might have been, and was, an issue in the towns, but out in the farm country there were no jobs to lead to such animosity. Race, of course, was an issue and many years would pass before desegregation brought the children of rural white families and the children of rural black families together for school. Black citizens generally did not vote, but then too most poor whites could not afford the poll tax and were disenfranchised as well. Slang terms were commonly used by people of both races to refer to those of a different color. Such things were part of the “big picture” of life in the United States during the 1930s, but were not everyday concerns among the poor farm families of the Cannady neighborhood where people were just trying to keep food on their table and survive to the next day.

One “piney woods philosopher” who grew up during the era of the Claude Neal lynching described the situation well when he pointed out that “Southern people back then were racist against blacks as a group. Northern people were racist against blacks as individuals.” His point was that rural white Southerners in places like Jackson County tended to joke or speak in derogatory terms about African Americans as a race, but usually got along well with their black friends or with black neighbors that they knew and recognized. Northerners, on the other hand, spoke of the rights of African Americans as a race, but were prone to practice sometimes fearful and violent racism against individual black families or citizens that might, for example, try to move into their neighborhood.


The book is now available and can be ordered at the upper right of this page. It also is available at Chipola River Book and Tea in Downtown Marianna. For more on the 1934 violence, please visit:

1 comment:

Pelvo White, Jr. said...

Although hundreds, if not thousands of white, southern racists participated in the accusations of murder, butchery, and subsequent murder of Mr. Claude Neal, none have been arrested, and prosecuted for these acts. The FBI has been thoroughly defeated, and publicly humiliated by an outlaw people who faithfully practiced a form of secrecy put in place years ago by Albert Pike, and his disciples. This system of secrecy continues to this very day.