THE SUGAR LAND 95: HISTORIC CEMETERY DISCOVERED AT THE CONSTRUCTION SITE OF THE JAMES REESE CAREER & TECHNICAL CENTER

  • The Fort Bend Independent School District is pleased to present the executive summary of Back to Bondage - Forced Labor in Post Reconstruction Era Texas: The Discovery, Exhumation, and Bioarcheological Analysis of Bullhead Convict  Labor Camp Cemetery (41FB355) , the final report prepared under the guidance of Goshawk Environmental Consultants, INC, Fort Bend ISD, and various contributors.” The final report, submitted to and approved by the Texas Historical Commission this month, documents the site, discovery, historical context and bioarcheological research findings associated with the Bullhead Convict Labor Camp Cemetery, which was abandoned and hidden for decades.
  • Artifacts found 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 anlysis of DNA. 

     

    Prior to each reburial, each gravesite and burial vessel was carefully markeed 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. 

Fundraising for DNA Research

  • In the fall of 2019, the Texas Historical Commission approved a research proposal for the extraction and analysis of ancient DNA at the University of Connecticut. Pursuant to that permit, TARL forwarded samples to a respected geneticist at the University of Connecticut for genetic analysis.

    Researchers have secured funding for the first batch of DNA extractions. Additional funding will be needed to fund the remaining DNA extractions, analysis, comparisons to existing databases, public outreach, and genealogical studies. Fort Bend ISD is not directing this fundraising. 

    February 2020 Update:

    The new permanent fund has been established to support the DNA extraction and related costs for the "Sugar Land 95" including but not limited to analysis, comparisons to existing databases, public outreach, and genealogical studies. Donors will receive a tax letter from the UConn Foundation for deductions. Please see the new donation information below. 

    New gifts can be made to the fund a few ways:

    1. Phone: Call the UConn Foundation at 860-486-5000 and ask to make a gift over the phone
    2. Online: www.giving.uconn.edu in the “Search” type either or both “23598” and/or “Sugar Land 95 Fund” and follow directions to make a gift
    3. Mail: Checks made payable to the UConn Foundation, Inc. with memo of  “23598 Sugar Land 95 Fund” and mail to:


    Attn: Data Services

    UConn Foundation

    2390 Alumni Drive, Unit 3206

    Storrs, CT 06269-3206

The Discovery of the Sugar Land 95

Other Videos

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Timeline

Q & A

  • When did Fort Bend ISD purchase the 65 acre site where the remains were discovered, and where studies done on the site at time of purchase?

  • How and when did Fort Bend ISD locate human remains at the James Reese Career and Technical Center?

  • Will the remains of the Sugar Land 95 undergo genetic testing? How can the public contribute to the fundraising?

  • The media mentions legislative action taken that would allow the County to operate the cemetery, what steps were taken after that action?

  • How did Fort Bend ISD exhume the remains and ensure they are respectfully treated?

  • Are the remains those of former slaves?

  • How will Fort Bend ISD memorialize these individuals and teach future generations about this piece of forgotten history?

  • What is the timeline for identifying a community partner to maintain the cemetery?

  • How long can FBISD maintain the historic cemetery?

  • What is the Sugar Land 95 Report?

  • What is Fort Bend ISD doing to education the community about the Sugar Land 95 and the roles of convict leasing?

  • Will Fort Bend ISD pursue a historic cemetery designation for the site?

  • What is Fort Bend ISD doing to memorialize the Sugar Land 95 at the site of the James Reese Career and Technical Center?