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Choctaw medicine man, civil rights activist dies after being booked into historically infamous Mississippi jail

Just weeks after Sandra Bland died in a Texas jail cell after having been arrested during a traffic stop, another activist is dead in eerily similar circumstances. The day after Bland died, long-time Choctaw civil rights activist Rexdale Henry was found dead in a jail cell in Neshoba County Jail in Philadelphia, Mississippi, after a traffic stop that also led to his arrest.

Henry’s family and friends, including Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) co-founder Diane Nash, have raised money to pay for an independent autopsy.

The Jackson Free Press reports that this isn’t the first time an activist has died after being booked into Neshoba County Jail:

Henry’s arrest came one day after 39-year-old Jonathan Sanders died after a police stop in nearby Clarke County….Information from a SNCC email listserv states of Henry: “His family wants to know what or who caused their healthy, fifty-three year old loved one to die in that cell.”

Activists also point to the death of Michael Deangelo McDougle, also in the Neshoba County Jail, less than a year ago, in November 2014, and invoke the Mississippi Burning murders that took place during Freedom Summer of 1964.

On June 21 of that year, local authorities took three civil-rights activists—James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Mickey Schwerner—to the Neshoba County Jail (it has since been moved) on minor charges before the trio disappeared; the activists’ bodies were discovered in an earthen dam 44 days after they went missing.

According to Newsone, a site catering to Black Americans, Native Americans “are killed by police at a higher rate than any other demographic in this country.”

© 2024 ACLU of Massachusetts.