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Anatomy of a Lynching

The Killing of Claude Neal

James R. McGovern. foreword by Manfred Berg

Publication Year: 2013

"A sensitive and forthright analysis of one of the most gruesome episodes in Florida history... McGovern has produced a richly detailed case study that should enhance our general understanding of mob violence and vigilantism." -- Florida Historical Quarterly

"[McGovern] has succeeded in writing more than a narrative account of this bloodcurdling story; he has explored its causes and ramifications." -- American Historical Review

"A finely crafted historical case study of one lynching, its antecedents, and its aftermath." -- Contemporary Sociology

First published in 1982, James R. McGovern's Anatomy of a Lynching unflinchingly reconstructs the grim events surrounding the death of Claude Neal, one of the estimated three thousand blacks who died at the hands of southern lynch mobs in the six decades between the 1880s and the outbreak of World War II.

Neal was accused of the brutal rape and murder of Lola Cannidy, a young white woman he had known since childhood. On October 26, 1934, a well-organized mob took Neal from his jail cell. The following night, the mob tortured Neal and hanged him to the point of strangulation, repeating the process until the victim died. A large crowd of men, women, and children who gathered to witness, celebrate, and assist in the lynching further mutilated Neal's body. Finally, the battered corpse was put on display, suspended as a warning from a tree in front of the Jackson County, Florida, courthouse.

Based on extensive research as well as on interviews with both blacks and whites who remember Neal's death, Anatomy of a Lynching sketches the social background of Jackson County, Florida -- deeply religious, crushed by the Depression, accustomed to violence, and proud of its role in the Civil War -- and examines which elements in the county's makeup contributed to the mob violence. McGovern offers a powerful dissection of an extraordinarily violent incident.

Published by: Louisiana State University Press


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p. C-C

Title Page, Copyright, Quote

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pp. i-iv


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pp. v-vi


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pp. vii-viii

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Foreword to the Updated Edition

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pp. ix-xxii

In late October 1934, Jackson County, in northwestern Florida, became the scene of a lynching that evoked shock and disbelief all over the United States not only because of its unfathomable cruelty but also because it gave the lie to widespread assumptions...

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Preface and Acknowledgments

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pp. xxiii-xxviii

The Scottsboro case has preempted the attention of liberals and scholars as the cause célèbie of racism and its attendant violence in the South in the 1930s. Few remember a second event, the lynching of Claude Neal, a black, in Greenwood, Florida, October 27, 1934. The murder of Neal, which NAACP spokesman Walter...

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Chapter 1 Lynch Law

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pp. 1-15

In the early hours of October 27, 1934, in the deep woods of northwest Florida, a mob lynched a black laborer, Claude Neal. He was accused of raping and murdering an attractive young white woman, the daughter of one of his employers, just nine days earlier....

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Chapter 2 Jackson County

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pp. 16-41

Jackson County, Florida, where Claude Neal grew up and lived, was prone to the lynching of blacks. Between 1900 and his death in 1934, six other blacks were put to death there by lynching— John Sanders, Doc Peters, Edward Christian, Hattie Bowman, Galvin Baker, and another whose name is not on...

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Chapter 3 The Suspect

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pp. 42-66

"One of the most horrible crimes in Jackson County's history was brought to light with the discovery on last Friday morning [October 19, 1934] of the mutilated body of Miss Lola Cannidy, nineteen year old Jackson County girl, on a wooded hillside near her home about three and one-half miles northeast of...

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Chapter 4 Vengeance for Justice

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pp. 67-94

The effective execution of their mission to abduct Neal and return him to Jackson County underlined the backgrounds and abilities of the men who comprised the lynch mob. Occupationally, they were not at the top of the status or income scales—not the merchants, furnishing men, or progressive politicians seeking...

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Chapter 5 The Local Reaction

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pp. 95-114

In view of the tumultuous events which engulfed Marianna and Jackson County on October 26 and 27, life seemingly returned to normality with astonishing rapidity. On Sunday, October 28, ministers in Jackson County reported good attendance at morning and evening services. A newsman for a Montgomery,...

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Chapter 6 The National Conscience

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pp. 115-139

The lynchers who seized Neal and returned him to Florida across the Alabama state boundary never gave a second thought to possible federal prosecution. And newspapers in Jackson County at the time made no mention of reprisals by federal law enforcement agencies. Indeed, through federal relief and crop programs,...

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Chapter 7 The End of an American Tragedy

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pp. 140-148

After 1935, the era of lynchings in the form of public murder of blacks with attendant rituals came rapidly to an end in America.1 Whereas the number of official lynchings of blacks in 1933, 1934, and 1935 averaged nineteen each year, in only five years thereafter did the number exceed five, and for more than half those...

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Chapter 8 Conclusion

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pp. 149-158

Before Claude Neal died, he had experienced in full measure the dehumanization which accompanied violence. He had been denied the legal sanctuary of a jail, a trial by jury, solace from his friends in his last hours, his sexual identity, and finally his life. The basis of that dehumanization had begun, of course, much...

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 159-166


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pp. 167-170

E-ISBN-13: 9780807154274
Print-ISBN-13: 9780807154250

Page Count: 200
Illustrations: 10 halftones, 2 maps
Publication Year: 2013

Edition: updated edition

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Subject Headings

  • Lynching -- Florida.
  • Neal, Claude, -1934.
  • Lynching -- United States.
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