The Lynching of Claude Neal
Claude Neal was lynched in a lonely spot about four miles from Greenswood, Florida, scene of the recent crime. After Neal was taken from the jail at Brewton, Alabama (moved there supposedly for his protection), he was driven approximately 200 miles over highway 231 leading into Marianna and from there he was subjected to the most brutal and savage torture imaginable.
Neal was taken from the Brewton jail between one and two o'clock Friday morning, October 26. he was in the hands of the smaller lynching group composed of approximately 100 men from then until he was left in the road in front of the Cannidy home late that same night. Neal was tortured for ten or twelve hours. The original mob that took Neal from jail directed "all of the niceties of a twentieth century lynching . . . inflicted upon Neal." The word was passed all over Northeastern Florida and southeastern Alabama that there was to be a "lynching party to which all white people are invited."
A member of the lynching party described the lynching in all of its ghastliness, down tot he minutest detail:
After taking the nigger to the woods about four miles from Greenwood, they cut off his penis. he was made to eat it. they they cut of his testicles and made him eat them and say he liked it. . . .
Then they sliced his sides and stomach with knives and every now and then somebody would cut off a finger or toe. Red hot irons were used on the nigger to burn him from top to bottom.
From time to time during the torture a rope was tied around Neal's neck and he was pulled up over a limb and held there until he almost choked to death. Then he was let down and the torture began all over again. After several hours of this unspeakable torture, they decided just to kill him.
Neal's body was tied to a rope on the rear of an automobile and dragged over the highway to the Cannidy home. here a mob estimated to number somewhere between 3000 and 7000 people from eleven southern states was excitedly waiting his arrival. When the car which was dragging Neal's body came in front of the Cannidy home, a man who was riding the rear bumper cut the rope.
A woman came out of the Cannidy house and drove a butcher knife into his heart. Then the crowd came by and some kicked him and some drove their cars over him.
Men, women, and children were numbered in the vast throng that came to witness the lynching. It is reported from reliable sources that the little children, some of them mere tots, who lived in the Greenwood neighborhood, waited with sharpened sticks for the return of Neal's body and that when it rolled in the dust on the road that awful night these little children drove their weapons deep into the flesh of the dead man.
The body, which by this time was horribly mutilated, was taken to Marianna, a distance of ten or eleven miles, where it was hung to a tree on the northeast corner of the courthouse square. Pictures were taken of the mutilated form and hundreds of photographs were sold for fifty cents each. Scores of citizens viewed the body as it hung in the square. The body was perfectly nude until the early morning when someone had the decency to hang a burlap sack over the middle of the body. The body was cut down about eight-thirty Saturday morning, October 27, 1934.
Fingers and toes from Neal's body have been exhibited as souvenirs in Marianna where one man offered to divide the finger which he had with a friend as "a special favor." Another man has one of the fingers preserved in alcohol. (source: Digital History)