Convict Leasing and Labor Project
The mission of the Convict Leasing and Labor Project is to expose the history of the convict leasing system and its connection to modern prison slavery while restoring the dignity of all victims of forced labor and their descendants.
Who are the
Sugar Land 95?
The first bone was found in February 2018, by a backhoe operator clawing through the dirt on land owned by the Fort Bend Independent School District. By the summer, the remains of 94 men and one woman, all African-Americans victims of convict leasing, had been recovered on the future site of a career and technical education center. Ranging in age from 14 to 70, the inmates had muscular builds but were malnourished, their bones misshapen from back-breaking, repetitive labor. They were buried in plain pine boxes sometime between 1878 and 1911.
CLLP has been at the forefront of the fight to preserve the Sugar Land 95's burial ground and ensure they are properly memorialized. Click on the timeline below for more information about our efforts.
What is Convict Leasing?
Decades after slavery was abolished, African-Americans toiled in bondage in Fort Bend County and across Texas and the South in a horrific system of forced labor known as convict leasing —slavery by another name. Few Americans know this story at all. Fewer still understand the grave injustice of a state sanctioned system expressly designed to work inmates to death to simply extract the absolute maximum profit for a small group of businessmen.
Despite the name “convict leasing,” the victims of this system were far from dangerous criminals. Those who were guilty had usually committed mere petty crimes. More often, innocent African-Americans were rounded up for allegedly violating the draconian “Black Codes” designed, immediately after slavery, to uphold white supremacy in the post-Civil War South.
Once “convicted” in a mockery of a trial, these individuals were rented by the state to do dangerous, backbreaking work for all their waking hours. They were fed almost nothing, lived in filthy and vermin-infested quarters and were beaten mercilessly for missing a work quota - only to be beaten again when they were too weak to meet the quota the next day. When they died, the businessmen would ask the state to send them another black man (who'd probably done nothing wrong) and the cycle would continue.
What We Do
Provides educational outreach on the history of slavery, convict leasing, and forced labor
Works with local, state, and national officials to seek recognition of the government's role in convict leasing.
Fights for the dignified reburial and memorialization of the Sugar Land 95
Builds support for the creation of a national museum on convict leasing.
You Can Make a Difference
Spread the Word
Lots of people have no idea this is happening in our own backyard. Tell your friends, neighbors, community groups and churches.
Contact Your Elected Officials
Let them know you support CLLP and its efforts to properly memorialize the Sugar Land 95.