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Notes on the sourcing of 'Spectacle: The Lynching of Claude Neal'

• The first scene, with Allie Mae Neal and Orlando Williams, was witnessed by the reporter and photographer in August 2010.

• Stories about the lynching ran in newspapers across the country. Several reporters, including one from the Associated Press and one from the Dothan Eagle, gave firsthand accounts of the events at the Cannady home.

• A number of historians have referred to the event as a "spectacle lynching," meaning it was witnessed by many and met with wide community approval. The prototype is the 1893 lynching of Henry Smith in Texas. Those who make the case that the Claude Neal lynching was the worst act of torture and execution in 20th century America include James R. McGovern, author of Anatomy of a Lynching: The Killing of Claude Neal, and Isabel Wilkerson, author of The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration.

• The detail about President Franklin D. Roosevelt is confirmed by correspondence between Walter White and FDR, and White and Eleanor Roosevelt in 1934 and '35, contained in the NAACP Papers at the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress; also detailed in newspaper stories, such as "Villard Scores Roosevelt For Not Supporting Anti-Lynching Bill" in The Galveston Sentinel, March 1, 1935; and "Minister Raps Roosevelt for Silence on Lynching," in Baltimore's Afro-American, Dec. 8, 1934.

• The details about Allie Mae Neal and her family not forgetting come from interviews with several of them in August 2010 and June 2011.

• The fact that the story remains a secret for some in Greenwood comes from interviews with Dale Cox and former Sheriff John McDaniel, and other sources not named in the story.

• Orlando Williams provided copies of letters he has written asking officials to open the case.

• Williams also provided a letter from the Department of Justice confirming it has opened a case on Claude Neal and has assigned the FBI to investigate.

• • •

• The details from Jackson County in 1934 come from advertisements in the Marianna Daily Times-Courier and Jackson County Floridan, historic photographs, books on the history of Jackson County and Pathe News footage of the Jackson County riots from October 1934.

• The population figure comes from the U.S. and Florida census.

• The Great Depression began in 1929 and lasted until the late 1930s.

• It is 9.2 miles by road from the geographic center of Marianna to the center of Greenwood.

• Details on Lola Cannady's disappearance come from a report, "RE: Lynching of Claude Neal," from Sheriff W.F. Chambliss to Gov. David Sholtz, Oct. 31, 1934.

• Lola Cannady's height and weight come from her nephew, George Cannady Jr., and her physical description comes from a photograph that appeared in the Jackson County Floridan on Oct. 20, 1934.

• George Cannady Jr. said in an interview that Lola was engaged to be married.

• Details on the search and discovery of Lola Cannady's body and subsequent investigation come from Chambliss' report to Gov. David Sholtz on Oct. 31.

• A story in the Jackson County Floridan on Oct. 26, 1934, details why Neal was a suspect.

• The description of Neal comes from interviews with his family in August 2010.

• Chambliss' report to Sholtz details Neal's arrest.

• The Jackson County Floridan reported on Oct. 31, 1934, that the sheriff had found a swatch of cloth that was fitted to Neal's shirt.

• Neal's arrest and subsequent removal from the jail in Marianna is detailed in Chambliss' report to Sholtz.

• Details about Jackson County's history come from The Battle of Marianna, Florida by Dale Cox, Nor Is It Over Yet by Jerrell H. Shofner, and Anatomy of a Lynching by McGovern.

• "Ku Klux Klan May Ride Again" was a headline in the Marianna Daily Times-Courier, Oct. 23, 1934.

• The mayor of Marianna refers to the number of officers in a story headlined "Marianna Balks Repetition of Invasion By Mob Spirit" in the Dothan Eagle, Oct. 30, 1934.

• Chambliss details Neal's movement in his Oct. 31 report to the governor, and it was recalled in a story in the Dothan Eagle, Nov. 1, 1934.

• Details about the mob come from the Panama City Pilot, Oct. 25, 1934.

• Chambliss told Gov. Sholtz about the men surrounding his house in his report.

• Information about Neal's booking in Brewton comes from a transcript of the interview of Hugh M. Caffey with Sheriff G.S. Byrne in November 1934, contained in the Miller Papers at the Alabama State Archives.

• Details about and quotes from George Cannady come from the Jackson County Floridan, Oct. 20, 1934.

• • •

• Neal's confession can be found in the Miller Papers, Alabama State Archives.

Details dealing with Neal's guilt and the actions of the mob come from Chambliss' report to Sholtz, a story in the Brewton Standard on Oct. 25, 1934, and an interview with Dale Cox.

• • •

• Details on Walter White's activities during the kidnapping and lynching come from his letters and telegrams, found in the Claude Neal NAACP file at the Manuscript Division, Library of Congress.

• The telegram from White to Sholtz on Oct. 26, 1934, is in the Claude Neal NAACP file at the Manuscript Division, Library of Congress.

• Sholtz and Chambliss talk about whether they did enough to prevent the lynching in a Dothan Eagle story, Nov. 1, 1934.

• Details on White hiring Howard "Buck" Kester come from letters and telegrams between the two in October 1934 on file at the Library of Congress.

• • •

• The description of the crowd at the Cannady house the night of the lynching comes from accounts from two reporters who were present; it is described in detail in an internal Associated Press newsletter in 1934.

• The details of what transpired at the Cannady house come from the Dothan Eagle, Oct. 27, 1934.

• In August 2011, Dale Cox showed the reporter the spot where Neal was held. Cox said he learned the location from interviews with two of the lynchers, who are now dead.

• Details on the activity at the Cannady house, the mob transporting Neal's body to Marianna and the sheriff cutting Neal's body down come from the Dothan Eagle, Oct. 27, 1934.

• • •

• The "day of terror and madness" reference comes from Kester's report to the NAACP.

• The telephone messages were found on a call log with Gov. David Sholtz's papers in the state archives.

• The description of the mob activity and the reaction of blacks comes from interviews with the Neal family in August 2010; reporting from the Dothan Eagle on Oct. 27, 1934; an interview with Lizzie Long in November 2010; and interviews with Curtis and Theodore Bryant in September 2011. A story in the Dothan Eagle says, "Virtually the entire Negro population of Marianna has disappeared . . ."

• The story of the children hiding in the wagon and the details about Neal's pregnant wife hiding in the woods with Allie Mae are from an August 2011 interview with Allie Mae Neal.

• • •

• Allie Mae Neal recalled her childhood and how the lynching impacted her in interviews in August 2010 and August 2011.

• • •

• The photograph of Claude Neal hanging near the courthouse was published with the NAACP's report, and an original is held by Dale Cox.

• • •

• White describes in letters how the NAACP would use the Neal lynching to advance its cause.

• Letters from angry citizens to Florida Gov. David Sholtz are on file at the state archives.

• Dozens of newspaper articles describe the groups that pushed the government to investigate. They include the Writers League Against Lynching, Commission on Interracial Co-operation and the Association of Southern Women for the Prevention of Lynching; see specifically the Galveston Sentinel, March 1, 1935, and Philadelphia Tribune, Nov. 8, 1934. In Anatomy of a Lynching, McGovern writes that H.L. Mencken bought several copies of the NAACP report and sent them to friends with an attached Christmas card.

• For examples of newspaper editorials, see "Newspapers North, South Score Lynching," on Page 9 of the New Journal and Guide, Nov. 10, 1934.

• For stories detailing the lobbying of Congress, the president and the FBI, see the Pittsburgh Courier, Nov. 3, 1934, and Nov. 10, 1934; New Journal and Guide, Nov. 10, 1934; Philadelphia Tribune, Nov. 29, 1934; and the New York Amsterdam News, Nov. 10, 1934.

• The federal response to the lynching is detailed in many places, including the Atlanta Daily World, Jan. 2, 1937, and Afro-American, Jan. 30, 1937.

• Southern Congressional opposition defeated the Costigan-Wagner Act in 1935.

• Lynching numbers come from the Tuskegee University lynching index, the primary source for such numbers.

• The grand jury sent its opinion to Judge Amos Lewis, on file at the Jackson County courthouse.

• The reporter talked to Lizzie Long by phone in November 2010, Laura World in September 2010, Theodore Bryant in September 2011, and Doyle Green in October 2011.

• Kester's fear is expressed in telegrams to Walter White; the anecdote about the church being surrounded comes from "Oral Histories of the American South," in an interview with Kester on July 22, 1974, at University of North Carolina.

• The line about Kester's "authoritative sources" comes in his report to the NAACP.

• He identified the three men in a letter to White, and White forwarded the names to Gov. Sholtz on Nov. 22, 1934.

• McGovern writes about his sources' hesitancy to speak on the record in Anatomy of a Lynching. Walter T. Howard, who was McGovern's research assistant on the book, talked about the threats in an interview in January 2011.

• Former Sheriff John McDaniel said in an interview in September 2011 that he was warned not to pry into the case.

• • •

• The section about George Cannady and his family's story about the lynching comes from an interview at his home in Greenwood in August 2010.

• • •

• The section about John McDaniel studying the lynching comes from McDaniel, who was interviewed in September 2011. Dale Cox verified that McDaniel had taken an interest in the case. Cox also shared photos the two had taken at the time.

• • •

• Dale Cox was interviewed several times for this story, by phone, e-mail and in person. In August 2011, he showed the reporter the tree where Neal was lynched.

• Information about ALS comes from the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

• Cox had redacted the names from the transcript he passed along via e-mail.

• • •

• The reporter and photographer attended the two-day Smith and Neal family reunion in Greenwood in August 2010. The details were witnessed.

• Ruth McNair was interviewed at the reunion and again back in Tampa.

• Orlando Williams shared copies of many of the letters he has sent. Dale Cox confirmed he had found a letter written by Williams in the 1980s, in which Williams was inquiring about the lynching.

• The attorney general updates Congress yearly on the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act of 2007. Those reports are available from the Department of Justice.

• Orlando Williams was interviewed for this story many times. His sisters confirmed the information about their mother.

• • •

• Williams recalled the scene about the FBI showing up at his home in Virginia. A spokesman in the FBI's Jacksonville bureau would not confirm or deny whether the agency is investigating the Neal lynching. Williams shared a letter in which the Department of Justice acknowledges it has opened a case on the Neal lynching.

• Allie Mae Neal confirmed that Williams called her to share the news.

• • •

• The story corrects two common errors. Claude Neal was killed on the banks of the Chattahoochee River, not the Chipola River. And the Cannady family's name has been frequently misspelled.

• Guidance in researching this story was provided by Jerry Mitchell, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter at the Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Miss., and Elliot Jaspin, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for Cox Newspapers and author of Buried in the Bitter Waters: The Hidden History of Racial Cleansing in America.

Notes on the sourcing of 'Spectacle: The Lynching of Claude Neal' 10/20/11 [Last modified: Friday, October 21, 2011 12:13pm]

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