GA-JCTS Newsletter

The newsletter of the Gilmore Academy-Jackson County Training School Alumni Association, Inc.


Vol. 2 No. 2

April 1999



A Picture is worth . . .


On April 6, 1999, I traveled to Marianna to meet with the history and publication committee who have been busy collecting historical photographs which document the history of African Americans in Jackson County. I arrived in Tallahassee at 1:00 p.m., eastern daylight saving time. With a four hours to spare before the  4:00 p.m., meeting, I decided to take Highway 90 instead of I-10. I wanted to see if I could get a glimpse of the huge abandoned cemetery at the Florida State Hospital at Chattahoochee where over 5,500 indigent mental patients who died between 1885 and 1926, are buried. According to an article in the March 14, 1999, Tallahassee Democrat, beneath traffic whirring by on Highway 90, row after row of graves stretch for acres under brambles and branches of twisted trees. The writer noted that, “rot and time have erased patients' names and dates from hand‑hewn pine grave markers with grooves that show they once formed crosses. What's left resembles curvy driftwood stumps sprouting eerily from the woodland floor ‑‑ along with lots of questions about who's who.” Although I could not see the cemetery, I wondered whether some of those buried were my ancestors, or yours.


I was uplifted just a few miles west as I crossed the Chattahoochee River into Jackson County. For the first time I noticed, thanks to the unrelenting efforts of Clinton Black, that the sign at the county line which welcomes travelers to Jackson County also reads:


The Home of T. Thomas Fortune


The meeting was attended by Sarah Speights, Queen Brown, and Barbara Dixon. Although a photograph of T. Thomas Fortune and his father, Emanuel Fortune were among historic photographs the committee had collected, we quickly realized that we were far short of our goal of 240 by July. Mrs. Brown taped an announcement for broadcast on the radio and  publication in the local press. Within  24 hours we collected over 50 photographs and recruited Donnie Roulhac to join the committee. Donnie immediately contributed, among others, a photograph of the first class, 1948, to graduate from Mrs. Watson’s kindergarten on South Street. Donnie and Gary Harrison were two of the three children in the class.


The 128-page will contain between 180 and 240 black-and-white images with informative captions which describe the people, places, and events relating to the African American presence in Jackson County. The education of Blacks will be a major focus.


You can in assisting in creating this visual history publication by providing historical and vintage black-and-white images of people,  businesses, churches, schools, graduating classes (GA-JCTS and other Black schools), social and professional clubs, lodges, and musical groups, weddings, baptisms, anniversaries,  etc. For information about contributing to the project contact: Sarah Pender, 2838 Pennsylvania Ave, Marianna FL 32448-4012, phone (850)482-2707 or the editor, Roy Roulhac, 4730 Commonwealth, Detroit MI 48208, phone (313)833-0675, for more information. Help us preserve our history?              


World War I Memorial?

World War 1 was a critical time in the history of African American in the South. Despite increased lynching African Americans in Jackson County were represented in large number in the US Army during WWI. 458 African Americans served from Jackson County. One, CRANBERRY Samuel W., of  Greenwood was wounded. The following gave their lives:


BAKER, Chester (1892 - 1919)           Marianna

BAKER, Colins (1895-1918)               Marianna

BROWN, John (1886-1918)                 Marianna

COBB, Frank                                       Sneads

CRAWFORD, Warren (1893-1918) Marianna

HAGLER, Jesse                                    Marianna

HARRELL, Robert                             Marianna

HAYES, Cary (1896-1918)                   Greenwood

HENDERSON, Monroe (1891-1918) Graceville

RUSS, Charles                                     Sneads

SMITH, David (1896-1918)                 Marianna

SNELLING, Emmanuel, Jr                Marianna

THOMAS, Erwin                                 Graceville

WEST, Willie (1891-1918)                  Compass Lake

WHITE, Fred                                      Marianna

WYNN, Ike (1887-1918)                        Campbellton


The participation of African Americans in the war effort did not go unnoticed.  Historian Jerrell H. Shoffner, observed on page 417 of,  Jackson County, Florida - A History , that:


“Black Jackson Countians had done their share both at home and abroad. Desirous of some tangible evidence of that fact, Armstrong Purdee, still the most influential spokesman of the black community, appeared before the county commission in early 1919 [March 10] and asked permission for the ‘colored people to erect a monument on the Courthouse Square in memory of the black soldiers killed in France’ in WWI. The request was granted.”


The Confederate Monument, built in 1881 by the Ladies Memorial Society, is still the only memorial on the square. It stands on the northeast corner.


Association members are invited to share their thoughts regarding erecting a memorial in memory of Jackson County Black soldiers killed in France and/or in memory of  memorial to all Jackson County soldiers who gave their lives while defending the United States.  


You live as long as you are remembered!        



Framing the Past and Visualizing the Future

by Derian Jamayel McKay,  age 15

2nd Place Winner

 1998 GA-JCTS Essay Contest

The injustices our ancestors endured should never be forgotten, nor should we dwell on and use them as fuel to ignite anger and hostility. Americans of the 90s should frame the past as old photographs to be viewed at a time of remembrance while visualizing a future of success.


In order to succeed, we must first get a good education. Our ancestors were denied any form of learning. Some had to sneak around in the dark just to learn a few basis words. We should frame the past of forced ignorance and visualize a future of taking full advantage of all the school system has to offer. We can do this by building a solid foundation in kindergarten. Each grade level thereafter, will add knowledge that will one day complete the building of basis education.


After we have completed our education, we must utilize that knowledge to become successful people. We may not get the job we want, and we may not get a job at all, but we must continue to strive to be number one. If you cannot be number one, then be in front of the person who is number two.


Another way to succeed is to avoid crime. Our ancestors struggled too hard at the hands of “masters” for us to be struggling in the 90s. Young black men and women are losing their lives for drugs’ sake. Violence is just another form of recreation. To these people, the past is not framed and the future is non-existent. Success will come when juvenile delinquents and prison bound teens can visualize the future and overcome their mistakes by using them as stepping stones and not balls and chains. We should never forget what our ancestors went through for us to have a future worth living. Their struggles should be our driving forces to be successful leaders of the world.





Notice of Annual Meeting

The annual meeting of the Gilmore Academy-Jackson County Training School will be held Saturday, 10:00 a.m., June 28, 1999, at St Luke Baptist Church, Marianna. Agenda items will include: the Association’s visual history publication on the African American presence in Jackson County, plans for the year 2000 all-school reunion, and projects for 1998-99. 


 Association members are invited to share their thoughts regarding erecting a memorial in memory of Jackson County Black soldiers killed in France and/or in memory of  memorial to all Jackson County soldiers who gave their lives while defending the United States.  




NAACP Investigates the Lynching of Claude Neal

Claude Neal, of Jackson County, was lynched in Marianna on October 26, 1934. He was the 5,068th person lynched in the United States since 1882, and 45th since President Franklin D. Roosevelt took office. In an effort to gain passage of an anti-lynching bill, the NAACP launched an investigation into Neal’s lynching. The investigation was conducted by an unnamed white university professor who had spent his entire life in the South and whose family, for generations, occupied high rank. The verbatim report is included in The Winding Road to Freedom: A Documentary Survey of Negro Experiences in America. The book, edited by Afred E. Cain, was published by the Educational Heritage, Inc. as part of its Negro Heritage Library. The following information is included in the report:


On October 19, 1934, Claude Neal, 23, of Greenwood, was arrested for the alleged rape and murder of Lola Cannidy, 20, a while girl. Neal, along with his mother, Annie Smith and his aunt, Sallie Smith were ordered taken to Chipley for safe keeping. However,  after hundreds of men swarmed the streets and threaten to destroy the jail unless the prisoners were delivered, Neal was moved to Panama City and from their by boat to Pensacola. From Pensacola, Neal was taken across the Florida line to Brewton, AL. When word of Neal’s removal to Brewton was received, several car loads of men set out for Brewton from Marianna.


According to an October 26, item in the Marianna, Daily Times-Courier, “an armed mob, estimated at 100 men, stormed the Escambia county jail between 2 and 3 o’clock a.m. today and seized Claude Neal, 23-year-old Negro who allegedly confessed yesterday to the murder...”  Neal was driven approximately 200 miles from Brewton to the woods near Greenwood, where he was lynched. A member of the lynching party gave the following account to the investigator:


“After taking the nigger to the woods about four miles from Greenwood, they cut off his penis. He was made to eat it. Then they cut off 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 would be tied around Neal’s neck and he was pulled up over a limb and held there until he almost choked to death when he would be let down and the torture begin 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 a car and dragged to the Cannidy home were a mob estimated between 3000 and 7000 people from eleven southern states were waiting. There a woman came out of the house and drove a butcher knife into his heart. The body was taken to Marianna, where it was hung to a tree on the northeast corner of the courthouse square. Pictures were taken of Neal’s nude and mutilated body, and sold for fifty cents each. The body was finally cut down about 8:30 a.m., Saturday October 27.


Riot condition prevailed in Marianna after the lynching and a detachment of the National Guard arrived about 4:30 Saturday afternoon and patrolled the streets, particularly the Negro section.


According to the investigator, there were serious doubts about Neal’s guilt. The story which he accepted as most plausible and reliable was that a white man had murdered Lola Cannidy, and taken the bloody garments to Neal’s home to have them washed and had later laid the murder on Neal. Neal and his family lived just across the road from the Cannidy home. Neal had played with the Cannidy children and worked on their farm. For some months, and possibly for a period of years, Claude Neal and Lola Cannidy had been having intimate relations and the nature of their relations was common knowledge in the Negro community. One rumor suggested that Cannidy desired to break the relationship and a meeting was arranged to arrive at some understanding. At the meeting in the woods, Cannidy is reported to have told Neal that she did not want Neal to speak to her again and that if he did, she would tell the white men in the community. Neal reportedly, got mad and killed her and later told a friend what happened.


According to the report, there was very little sympathy or support, even in the Black community, for Neal’s plight. In the days before the lynching, at least two letters written by Blacks appeared in the Daily Times-Courier. In one dated October 22, 1934, John Curry  thanked,  “. . . the sheriff for working so faithfully to get the right man” and was “still pleading for a chance for the better class of colored people and not to punish us for him, because if he do wrong he is wrong, and we have no sympathy for him.”


A second item, in the form of a resolution, was published in the Daily Times-Courier, on October 23, 1934. It carried the headline, Colored Citizens Disapprove Crime. It  reads:


“Whereas, it has come to our attention that one of the most brutal crimes is supposed to have been committed by one of our race; and


“Whereas, that friendly and mutual relationships that have so long existed among the white and colored citizens of our fair county has been interrupted by such a brutal act;


“BE IT RESOLVED, that we, the colored citizens of Jackson County, Florida, do here and now place our stamp of disapproval on such an atrocious act, and assure the family that they have our deepest sympathy and the law our unstinted support in bringing the guilty to speedy justice.


“We do not condone crime in any form. We believe, in teach our race to be law abiding citizens. We trust that the brutal act will not break that friendly and mutual relationship that exists among the white and colored people of this, our good country. We have the utmost confidence in the white citizens of this county, and trust that you have the same in us. We shall ever strive and teach our race never to betray that trust. We pray that the guilty may be apprehended and punished and that the innocent will be protected.

Your humble citizens:

R.W. Whitehurst, E. Harly, M. Robinson, W.R. Robinson, H. H. Fagan, D.P. Preston, M.L. Clay, R. T. Gilmore.


At the time of this lynching, Gilmore Academy had graduated its third class. The county, however, still had the highest illiteracy rate of any in the state in proportion to the number of schools. There were no public libraries and Black teachers received from $25.00 to $35.00 per month. Marianna had a population of about 3,300 and the Black population numbered between 35% and 40%. Jackson County, one of the four original counties of Florida, had a population of approximately 30,000, two-third lived on farms.


The NAACP report, noted that Neal’s lynching was to a large extent a surface eruption and the basis cause was economic. It noted that, “the lynching had two objects, first, to intimidate and threaten the white employers of Negro labor and secondly to scare and terrorize the Negroes so that they would leave the county and their jobs could be taken over by white men.”


Reunion 2000

Tenative plans for Reunion 2000 include: essay contest, spelling bees, banquet, “be out day” at Panama City beach, church service, annual meeting. If you are interested in serving on the committee, contact the editor.


                Membership Report

                (New Members - 9/98 - 4/99)

*Otis Blackshear, 54          Atlanta GA

Eldonia Goode, ‘58            Mt Vernon NY

Alyce Howard, ‘43              Tuskegee Inst. AL

Carol Slater, ‘66                 Pensacola FL

Jake Sim White. ‘55            Dallas TX

Membership is open to former students, staff, faculty, and other persons who support the goals and objectives of the Association. Membership dues is $20 per year.


Charter members are persons who joined the Association between April 1997 and July 1998. If not paid, dues for period 1998-99 (August 1998 - July 1999), are due. As of April, 1999 the Association has 221 dues paying members.


*Charter member. Inadvertently omitted from September 1998 report.