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PORTSIDE Home

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PORTSIDE  October 2011, Week 4

PORTSIDE October 2011, Week 4

Subject:

The Lynching of Claude Neal

From:

Portside Moderator <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

[log in to unmask]

Date:

Wed, 26 Oct 2011 22:50:11 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (101 lines)

Spectacle: The lynching of Claude Neal

By Ben Montgomery, Times Staff Writer 
In Print: Sunday, October 23, 2011
GREENWOOD
http://www.tampabay.com/features/humaninterest/article1197360.ece

Allie Mae Neal pushed through the screen door and found a
shady spot on her porch where the summer sun didn't bite.
Kittens purred at her feet and wasps flitted in and out of
holes in the roof. The few neighbors who passed by saw an
old woman in a wheelchair, blue eyes lazy and unfocused
behind thick glasses. She'd wave and they'd wave back.
Black or white. She has never held a grudge.

"I never blamed nobody," she said. "I never knew who to
blame."

She never knew because nobody was ever charged with a
crime, and because no man spent a single second in a cell
for the things they did to her father, with knives and
rope and hate.

Seventy-seven years have passed. She can't remember his
face. If she ever wanted to look, she could study the
single photograph of him that exists. But in it, he is
hanging from a tree.

The story of her father's death ran in newspapers from New
York to Los Angeles, detailing how a small band of men
killed him, and how a mob mutilated his corpse. They
called it a spectacle lynching, and historians say it was
perhaps the worst act of torture and execution in 20th
century America. The killing became Florida's shame.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt knew her father's name.

Claude Neal.

But America moved on, all except for Allie Mae, who is
still jolted awake by nightmares, and the other
descendants of Claude Neal, who are still scattered and
broken, and a few historians, who have never told the
story whole. In the Panhandle town of Greenwood, the
lynching of Claude Neal remains in some families a dark
legend. Those who could remember it outright are mostly
dead. The ones who inherited the stories have kept them
secret, safe.

A car pulled up outside Allie Mae's little house. Out
stepped her cousin, Orlando Williams. He is 64, too young
to remember his uncle. But he has seen the way the
violence ripped through generations of his family.

He's young enough to keep hoping, if not for justice, then
at least for answers.

He climbed the steps and kissed Allie Mae on the cheek.

"I promise," he whispered.

"I know," she said.

For 25 years he has vowed to bring amends. He has fired
off letters to lawyers, congressmen, governors,
presidents. After decades of rejection, there came, this
summer, a knock at his door. The Justice Department had
opened an investigation into the 1934 lynching of Claude
Neal.

Whether because of Williams' efforts, or simply because
the world has kept turning, one of the most atrocious
chapters of Florida history is getting another look. The
six men who tortured Claude Neal in the woods have never
been publicly named. Those who kept his severed fingers in
jars as souvenirs have not had to explain. Greenwood, a
place where the names on the church rolls haven't changed,
has not had to face its history. Its people — the
shrinking number who know — are still protecting the
reputations of killers.

for the rest of this long investigative piece, see
http://www.tampabay.com/features/humaninterest/article1197360.ece

___________________________________________

Portside aims to provide material of interest to people
on the left that will help them to interpret the world
and to change it.

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