Lynching of Claude Neal
On October 27, 1934, armed assailants captured and lynched Claude Neal in the woods near Peri Landing in Jackson County Florida. Claude Neal was a farmhand who had been accused of killing Lola Cannady. Rather than permit a trial, the mob took the suspect from officers at gunpoint and then beat and tortured Neal before they killed him and hung his lifeless body from a tree near the Chattahoochee River. Reports of the lynching led to riots that targeted any person of color and caused property damage throughout Marianna.
Backstory and Context
Confident that no one would stop them from killing Neal, the mob contacted the local newspaper and announced their intention to publicly lynch Neal on the evening of the 27th. Newspapers and radio stations across America reported the intentions of the mob while Florida officials did little to prevent the mob from following through with their intentions. On the 27th, a large group congregated at the Cannady farm to witness the lynching. Reports estimated that the crowd was anywhere from several hundred participants to several thousand. Reports also indicate that the mob began to become unruly as they waited for Neal to be brought out. Fearing that the site of Neal would inspire a riot, the six men who were placed in charge of holding Neal decided to take their victim into the woods near Peri Landing. In those woods, the white men tortured Neal, severing toes, fingers, and even genitalia before burning him alive. After the victim died, the mob continued to mutilate his body and then delivered the remains to the mob.
The mob attacked Neal's corpse and then hung his lifeless remains from a tree outside of the Jackson County Courthouse at 3 AM. After the mob finally returned to their homes, Neal's body was recovered and buried by the Sheriff's office. Not content with their evening of "vengeance" a second mob formed outside the courthouse and demanded that the sheriff recover the body so that it might be hung from the courthouse as a message to African Americans. After the sheriff refused the mob's demand, they turned their vengeance against black homes, churches, and citizens.
The resulting riot caused over two hundred African Americans to be harmed in some way, with several homes and churches being set on fire. Eventually, the National Guard arrived and required the rioters to return to their homes. News of the lynching and subsequent riot led to renewed support for anti-lynching legislation, yet Congress still proved unwilling to pass legislation providing for federal oversight of investigations related to these kinds of racially-motivated crimes.