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Who were 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-American 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.


The Sugar Land 95 are the 95 African-American individuals unearthed during a construction in Sugar Land, Texas, 30 miles southwest of Houston. Archaeologists found evidence that the 95 individuals belonged to the state of Texas' convict leasing system and were buried in the unmarked gravesite.


October 2017

Construction of the James Reese Career and Technical Center began. During site preparation, the Texas Historical Commission (THC) contacted Fort Bend Independent School District, and the District retained archaeologists from Goshawk Environmental Consulting to search for potential archaeological artifacts.

February 2018

A backhoe operator found two bones during construction. Analysis confirmed they were human. Charles Dupre, Fort Bend ISD Superintendent, notified Reginald Moore by phone.

March–April 2018

Archaeologists conducted a perimeter search and discovered several interments on site.

April 2018

As Fort Bend ISD and THC announced the discovery of the historic cemetery, exploratory work continued. Over the next months, the perimeter was established. Construction continued in areas not affected by archaeological work. Over the month, the count of discovered graves reached 30, then 79, then 89. By July it reached 95.

June 2018

The 434th District Court granted Fort Bend ISD permission to exhume human remains for purposes of further historic investigation.

July 2018

Fort Bend ISD, THC, and Goshawk Environmental Consulting spoke to the media about ongoing exhumation and forensic analysis. They announced that in their judgement, the 95 bodies were those of inmates in the convict leasing system. All of the remains indicated African American traits and hard, repetitive labor. Artifacts such as a brick, a ring, chains were found within the burial site.


Fort Bend ISD and the City of Sugar Land entered into a memorandum of understanding, in which they agreed to cooperate regarding future reinterment at the Old Imperial Farm Cemetery. At this point, Fort Bend ISD planned to construct the still-unbuilt portion of James Reese Career and Technical Center, after the remains had been removed and reburied at another site.

August 2018

The City of Sugar Land established a task force to ensure that the remains of the Sugar Land 95 would be reinterred with dignity and their lives honored.

October 2018

Although Fort Bend ISD and the City of Sugar Land had agreed to work toward reinterment of the remains at the Old Imperial Prison Farm Cemetery, the task force voted 19-1 not to move the remains, but rather to reinter the remains where they were found. The task force was dissolved.

November–December 2018

Fort Bend ISD petitioned the 434th District Court for permission for reinterment at the Old Imperial Prison Farm Cemetery. Judge Shoemake delayed the decision and appointed a Master in Chancery to assist with the case, Michael W. Elliott. Reginald Moore held a candlelight vigil in Sugar Land Town Square.

February 2019

Fort Bend County Historical Commission voted unanimously to support preserving the gravesites. Fort Bend County Commissioners Court and the Fort Bend ISD school board voted unanimously to begin negotiating a deal allowing the county to buy the land containing the gravesites and create a cemetery and memorial.

March 2019

Fort Bend County Commissioners Court passed a resolution asking the Texas Legislature to permit Fort Bend County to operate historic cemeteries. The Texas Health and Safety Code allows only small rural counties with a population of 8,200 or fewer to own and run cemeteries. Fort Bend County’s population is over 811,000. The idea becomes the proposed Texas House Bill 4179.

April 2019

Fort Bend ISD Board of Trustees approves a resolution to support Texas House Bill 4179.

May 2019

Texas House Bill 4179 cleared the Senate.

June 2019

Governor Greg Abbott signed House Bill 4179 into law. Fort Bend ISD Board approves an agreement to transfer the Sugar Land 95 site to Fort Bend County’s ownership.

August 2019

Fort Bend ISD withdrew its offer to pay Fort Bend County $1 million, stating that it would reinter the remains and hold a public memorial service, and so the county would incur no such costs. 434th District Court Judge James Shoemake appointed Scott West as attorney to represent the unknown heirs of the Sugar Land 95. Fort Bend ISD appealed that decision, and the First Court of Appeals in Houston upheld that appeal, staying Judge Shoemake’s order that had appointed West. Meanwhile, community activists alleged that Fort Bend ISD’s construction activities had already altered the burial site. Fort Bend ISD denied this.

September 2019