THE SUGAR LAND 95: HISTORIC CEMETERY DISCOVERED AT THE CONSTRUCTION SITE OF THE JAMES REESE CAREER & TECHNICAL CENTER
In early 2018, construction at the site of Fort Bend ISD’s new James Reese Career and Technical Center unearthed a forgotten piece of Sugar Land’s past: a historic cemetery where 95 individuals were buried, believed to be a part of a convict-leasing program that began in the late 1800s.
Crews discovered the first human remains while backfilling a trench in February 2018. Over the next several months and with the guidance and recommendations from the Texas Historical Commission, archaelogists discovered more burial sites - ultimately leading to the discovery of the remains 95 individuals.
Following an extensive exhumation process and further analysis, archeologists determined that the individuals buried at the property are likely convicts who were leased by the State to provide convict labor to a local plantation, following the national abolition of slavery. This unjust system provided inexpensive labor to wealthy plantation owners following the abolition of slavery in 1865.
The 95 individuals have become known collectively as the Sugar Land 95, and in November of 2019, they were laid to rest at the site where their remains were originally found. The arduous process continues to identify any possible descendants through the analysis of DNA.
Prior to each reburial, each gravesite and burial vessel was carefully marked so that individuals could be reunified with family, should descendants be identified in the future.
This webpage provides more information about the discovery of this historic cemetery and the District's efforts to educate our students about the convict leasing program.