You Belong to Me

Sex, Race and Murder in the South

The Ruby McCollum Story


August 3, 1952. Live Oak, Florida, the heart of the Jim Crow South.

11:34 AM.

Ruby McCollum, age 42, shoots State Senator-elect, Dr. Clifford LeRoy Adams, firing her .32-caliber revolver four times into his body, before going home and warming a bottle of milk for her baby daughter. What began as a bizarre murder case quickly turned into a bright light on the rotting underbelly of the Old South. 

Ruby McCollum was the wealthiest black woman in Suwannee County, Florida. She lived in one of Live Oak's finest homes. Her husband, Sam, ran the local numbers racket, owned several farms, and sat on the board of Florida's largest black life insurance company. They were church going, upstanding members of the community. Their eldest son had been accepted to UCLA. Murdering the most powerful white man in the town over a doctor's bill would seem the least-likely crime she might commit. 

With unprecedented cooperation from the McCollum and Adams families, some speaking on the record for the first time, along with several of Florida and Live Oak's civic leaders, historians and academics, You Belong To Me explores and rips the veil off hidden practices. The film exposes the truth of what it meant to be an African American in the Jim Crow South and the long road to healing.

Was Ruby insane, or was the killing of Dr. Adams the last sane act of a woman whose wealth and status could not protect her from the blind indifference and humiliations of the Jim Crow South?

Her story became front-page news nationwide in the black press but was ignored by much of white America. The Judge in her case refused to allow her to be interviewed by reporters, including the famed writers, Zora Neale Hurston and William Bradford Huie. Her testimony proved so explosive, the local paper refused to print it. Her case haunted jurors and prosecutors for decades.

Over sixty years later, the scars and divides created by Ruby's case can still be felt in Live Oak, Florida, a town where descendants of both the killer and the victim still live, and where the case is still discussed more often in whispers than open dialogue. 


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