Rexdale Henry, a Choctaw activist, beaten and “found dead” in Neshoba County Jail

       Steve Wagner wrote to me about the death of Rexdale Henry, a Choctaw activist, in a Philadelphia, Mississippi jail.  He was there for “not paying fines,” a way the US hideously incarcerates large numbers of people (see Matt Taibbi, here ).   Henry was a medicine man, a stickball coach, and had recently run for a tribal office.  The police broke two of Rexdale’s ribs during his arrest…His death occurred a day after the police assault on/murder of Sandra Bland…


     A long circuitous struggle. as I have written about in the University of Denver’s journey about its previous celebration of an author of the Sand Creek Massacre, Territorial Governor John Evans, is taking place from below across the country to make genocide apparent – to dispel the amnesia.  Last December 3rd, Governor John Hickenlooper commendably apologized, in the name of the people of Colorado, to the descendants of the Cheyennes and Arapahos for the atrocities the Third Army Regiment had committed at Sand Creek.


      And yet, Rexdale Henry, among the survivors who live often in the poorest communities in the United States, created as part of the genocide, can be beaten, locked up and killed to this day.


     Neshoba County, Mississippi  – Philadelphia, Mississippi – is the place where my childhood friend Andy Goodman went to fight for equality in Freedom Summer, 1964.  He, James Cheney and Mickey Schwerner, went to see a burned out church, had a flat tire, were “arrested,” and handed over at midnight by the Sheriff Cecil Price to a Klan mob headed by Reverend Edgar Ray Killens (Micki Dickhoff made a fine film, “Neshoba,” interviewing Killens before his trial in 2008, 44 years later).  The Klan murdered them and buried them in a dam on a Klansman’s property (never held accountable).

    As the killing of Henry shows, the racism in Philadelphia, and across America, runs deep.


   As Steve aptly writes:

 “and a friend of yours long, long ago, which must, I think, be to say yesterday  . . .  Had you scripted this into a movie they would have told you no one’s going to believe that:
Autopsy Underway for Choctaw Activist Found Dead in Miss. Jail Cell 
A private autopsy is reportedly underway for a Native American activist who was found dead in a Mississippi jail one day after Sandra Bland was found dead. Rexdale Henry died five days after he was arrested for failing to pay a fine. He was being held in the Neshoba County Jail in Philadelphia, Mississippi, the same jail where three civil rights activists – James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Mickey Schwerner – were held before their murder by the Ku Klux Klan in 1964.
(Democracy Now!)”
     There is widespread and growing protest about the terrible police assault on/murder of Sandra Bland in Waller.  See here and here. Diane Nash, a daring leader of SNCC in Nashville and longstanding hero of the civil rights movement, and James Steele, a long activist for civil rights and friend of Rexdale Henry, have worked on this. But so far,  SNCC, the brief news clip on Democracy Now and some local sources below are the only ones to get the word out about Rexdale. We should all help in this…
       As Michael Schwartz wrote to me:
“Yet another police murder. 
This is from the SNCC listserve and it is the only place where I have seen any mention of this particular atrocity.   
It is particularly important because:
`1. I think we can become complacent about the fact that (some) police murders of black people are getting national coverage, and therefore assume that change is pending.   What might be happening is just that this scourge (which is several hundred years old, remember) is just getting a new round of publicity.   We need to make sure that whatever momentum has developed for real police reform is not lost until something real comes out of it. 
2. This case is in some ways highly significant because it is just business as usual for the police in the same county where Schwerner, Chaney and Goodman were murdered by the police.   And we have to realize that even with this incredible uproar about police violence, in most places the murders and assaults continue without abatement and without publicity.” 

——– Forwarded Message ——–

Subject:    Fw: Fwd: Press release

Date:    Fri, 24 Jul 2015 21:11:42 +0000 (UTC)

From:    Johnora Macon <>
Reply-To:    Johnora Macon <>

On Friday, July 24, 2015 4:03 PM, John Steele

<> wrote:

From :

Mississippi Civil Rights Martyrs Memorial Service & Cold Case Justice Initiative Syracuse U College of Law

For Release: July 24, 2015 after 10:00 a.m.EDT

A plane just left Mississippi carrying the body of Rexdale Henry. His family has asked for an independent autopsy by a Florida board certified pathologist. Mr. Henry was found dead in Philadelphia, Mississippi, in a Neshoba County jail cell on Tuesday, July 14, 2015 just two days after the death of Sandra Bland in a Texas jail. A lifelong community activist and member of the Choctaw tribe, Mr. Henry was arrested July 9 allegedly for failure to pay an old fine.

He reportedly suffered two broken ribs at some time during his arrest or in the jail. Local concerned citizens have raised substantial questions about the cause of his death. His family wants to know what or who caused their healthy,fifty-three year old loved one to die in that cell. Since the Chief Medical Examiner in Jackson, Mississippi, has refused so far to inform the family or their representatives of either the cause or manner of death, the family made the difficult decision to postpone burial after the funeral Sunday because they are determined to find out what really happened.

Friends of Mr. Henry, including long time civil rights activists John Steele and Diane Nash, have joined forces with law professors Janis 
McDonald and Paula Johnson of the Cold Case Justice Initiative from Syracuse University College of Law to ensure that an unbiased autopsy can be conducted to either verify or challenge the work of Mississippi
state officials. According to Professor McDonald, “At a time when the 
nation is focused on the terrible circumstances of the brutal death of Sandra Bland, it is critical to expose the many ways in which Black Americans, Native Americans and other minorities are being arrested for minor charges and end up dead in jail cells.”

Others have died mysteriously in the same Neshoba County Jail. In 
November 2014 Michael Deangelo McDougle was found dead in his cell. Although the coroner’s inquest found no wrongdoing, the autopsy results have yet to be released. Mr. McDougle’s body was badly bruised, according to some who observed the body. Several other inmates have died under questionable circumstances in the recent past.

Philadelphia, Mississippi in Neshoba County gained national notoriety 
when three civil rights workers: James Chaney, Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman were arrested on June 21, 1964 while investigating a church bombing site during Freedom Summer. They were placed in Neshoba County detention facilities,then escorted and left outside city limits late that night by the deputy sheriff where members of the local Klan tortured and murdered them.

John Steele was a young man living in Philadelphia with his parents, 
long time civil rights activists who worked along with Michael Schwerner and James Chaney in Neshoba County. Steele was a close friend of Rexdale Henry.

“Mr. Henry was a dedicated family man and the medicine man for his 
Choctaw community of Bogue Chitto,” states John Steele. In addition to his many other activities he was the coach of the stickball team and, a week before his arrest, he was a candidate for his Choctaw Tribal Council.  The funeral was held at a local gymnasium with an overflow crowd on Sunday, July 19.

Diane Nash, who met Rexdale Henry in Philadelphia last summer, and John 
Steele are two of the organizers of the Mississippi Civil Rights Martyrs Memorial Service.  The MCRMMS sponsors a conference and caravan  each year in Meridian and Philadelphia, Mississippi to commemorate Mississippi civil rights martyrs, including Chaney, Schwerner and Goodman.

The Cold Case Justice Initiative at Syracuse University College of 
Law began in 2007 and is committed to helping families achieve justice for the loss of their loved ones as a result of racist killings by individuals, groups or law enforcement.

Anonymous donors contributed to a fund to ensure that the important 
questions raised by Mr. Henry’s death are answered.

Results of the second autopsy will be announced as soon as they are 


John Steele
MS Civil Rights Martyrs

Memorial Committee (315)935-5529

Philadelphia, Mississippi

(662) 773-2655

Janis L. McDonald, Professor of Law

Co-Director, Cold Case Justice Initiative

Syracuse University College of Law
(315) 935-5529

Members of the Mississippi Civil Rights Martyrs Memorial Service:

John Steele, Chairman,

Annis Collins,

Ralph Fertig,

Lena Jones,

Suzanne Marks,

Rev. Advial


Curtis Muhammad,

Diane Nash,

George Roberts,

Rev. C. T. Vivian


This list is for describing and discussing what we did in the Freedom Movement, what it meant to us, and what we have done since. For sharing our views on what our successes and failures were, what we did right and what mistakes we made. For sharing among ourselves our views and thoughts about current events and the roles we are playing today. It is for rebuilding the beloved community that we were all once part of, and for continuing the tradition of mutual support that saw us through dark days. To those ends, free and honest discussion of issues and ideas is encouraged, but personal attacks on named individuals or carrying on old vendettas is not appropriate.


SNCC-List mailing list

Who Was Rexdale Henry? The Native American Activist’s Death Is Eerily Similar To Sandra Bland’s

Andrew Burton/Getty Images News/Getty Images

The death of Black Lives Matter activist Sandra Bland has made national headlines as many have questioned the circumstances surrounding what authorities said was a suicide in her Texas jail cell. But another civil activist (and countless others over the years) died in police custody just one day after Bland in what appears to be an eerily similar situation. But who was Rexdale Henry, the Native American civil rights activist found dead in his jail cell in Mississippi? 
On July 14, Henry’s body was discovered at around 10 a.m. in his cell at Neshoba County Jail in Philadelphia, Mississippi. The 53-year-old, who was arrested on July 9 for failing to pay a fine, was last seen alive a half hour earlier, according to WTOK. The Mississippi crime lab has conducted an autopsy, and the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation is currently involved in looking into Henry’s cause of death, according to the Jackson Free Press. According to RT, Henry is the second person to die in that county jail.
A lifelong Native American civil rights activist, Henry was a leader in his Choctaw tribe, which is based in the southeast region of the United States that spans modern-day Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, and Florida. Last month, Henry ran as a candidate for a seat on the Choctaw Tribal Council for the Mississippi Band of Choctaw for its June 9 election. According to Native News Online, he was also considered a medicine man and coached stickball.
Henry’s family has questioned the circumstances surrounding his death, claiming he was healthy when he was arrested. RT reported that Henry’s body will be transported to Florida for an independent autopsy thanks for aid from civil rights activists John Steel and Diane Nash as well as Syracuse University law professors Janis McDonald and Paul Johnson.
The numbers don’t lie: While African Americans between the ages of 20 to 24 are the most likely to be killed by law enforcement, Native Americans between 25 to 35, 35 to 44, and 20 to 24 rank second, third, and fifth, respectively, on that list, according to the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice. It’s for this reason Henry’s death represents a larger issue in shedding light on the very similar experiences between these two maligned communities.

At a time when the nation is focused on the terrible circumstances of the brutal death of Sandra Bland, it is critical to expose the many ways in which Black Americans, Native Americans and other minorities are being arrested for minor charges and end up dead in jail cells.

The Native American condition has largely been kept a footnote in U.S. history, but with more attention being paid to the black experience in light of police brutality, perhaps that same opportunity will be afforded to the very people who were living in this country before, well, this country even existed.
      And here is a story from Native News:
 Home / Currents / Death of Choctaw Activist Rexdale Henry in a Mississippi County Jail Prompts Independent Autopsy


Rexdale W. Henry

Rexdale W. Henry
PHILADELPHIA, MISSISSIPPI– The death of Rexdale W. Henry, a 53-year-old Choctaw activist, who died while being held  in a county jail is under investigation by the Mississippi Bureua of Investigation.
Henry died on Tuesday, July 14, 2015, from unspecified causes was found in a cell at the Neshoba County Jail in Philadelphia, Mississippi. At the time of his death, Henry was incarcerated for failure to pay a fine. He was found dead in his cell on the morning of July 14 about 10:00 a.m. He was last seen alive around 9:30 a.m. that morning.
The Mississippi state crime lab performed an autospy and an independent one is being conducted to determine the cause of his death. The independent autospy is being paid for by an anonymous donor.
His family wants answers into why and how Henry died while being jailed. They maintain Henry was healthy at the time of his arrest.
According to family supporters, the results of the independent autsospy will be released once they are received.