On October 19, 1934, Florida farmhand Claude Neal was arrested, accused of the murder of a local white woman. Lynch mobs began forming before 23-year-old Neal had even been formally charged.
On October 26, Mr. Neal was seized from jail by six white men and brutally killed. Soon after, his corpse was presented to the community. They castrated, shot and burned his body. When the sheriff cut the body down from a tree and refused to rehang it, an angry mob rioted, burning the homes of Mr. Neal’s family and threatening black residents until they fled. A grand jury did not indict anyone for the lynching of Mr. Neal.
While lynchings are often thought to have been carried out by a handful of vigilantes, in truth they were often events supported by the community, press, and government officials. These lynchings were a tactic for maintaining racial control by victimizing not merely an individual, but the entire African American community.