Honoring, Preserving, and Memorializing History

Statement on Memorializing the 95 People Lost to History

May 23, 2019

The Texas Senate recently passed House Bill 4179. Pending the governor's signature, the bill will allow the county to own, operate and maintain a cemetery. Passage of the bill was an important step for efforts to reinter and memorialize the remains of 95 people lost to history who were discovered on a construction site located on land currently owned by the school district. Sugar Land partnered with Fort Bend ISD and Fort Bend County to support the creation and passage of House Bill 4179. The disposition of the remains is the legal responsibility of the school district, and they have decided to reinter the remains where they were found if legally possible. Sugar Land City Council previously approved an agreement that would have allowed the remains to be reinterred to a nearby historic prison cemetery owned and maintained by the city had FBISD chosen to do so.

Read more at https://www.fortbendisd.com/Page/108153.

Sugar Land recognizes the importance of this historic discovery and is committed to working with the school district and collaborating with community leaders to assist in the process as requested and appropriate.

The city is proud to be one of the most diverse communities in the nation and this diversity is what makes Sugar Land such a great place to live, raise a family, work and play. This historic discovery is an important one for the community – for its ability to help us recognize and acknowledge the past in a way that honors families and our community values of today. Sugar Land is dedicated to working with others to ensure that these souls are memorialized in a manner that will make everyone in Sugar Land proud of how everyone expresses current-day values and respect for others.

For more information contact Fort Bend ISD’s Chief Communications Officer Veronica Sopher at Veronica.Sopher@FortBendISD.com.

Timeline

February 2018

  • The city is informed of the discovery of human remains buried on Fort Bend Independent School Districts’ property.

July 2018

  • City leaders meet with representatives of the Texas Slave Descendants Society – a group now called the Convict Leasing and Labor Project – to discuss preliminary plans for the relocation of the remains to the city’s cemetery and conceptual ideas for enhancing and memorializing the cemetery. 

August 2018

  • Sugar Land City Council approves a memorandum of understanding for the possible future relocation of skeletal remains to the city’s Old Imperial Prison Farm Cemetery.
  • Sugar Land City Manager Allen Bogard appoints a task force to provide a recommendation on the re-interment, memorialization and public education details of historical remains discovered on property owned by Fort Bend Independent School District.

September 2018

  • The City Manager’s Task Force on the Convict Lease Memorial met for the first time on Sept. 5 and unanimously supported DNA testing of historical remains discovered on property owned by Fort Bend Independent School District.

October 2018

  • Additional meetings of The City Manager’s Task Force on the Convict Lease Memorial take place at Sugar Land City Hall.
  • Sugar Land City Council approves an interlocal agreement with Fort Bend Independent School district to honor and preserve the memory of victims of the convict lease prison system. Sugar Land’s interlocal agreement with Fort Bend ISD provides the option for the school district to inter historical remains at the city’s cemetery.  The decision is the legal responsibility of Fort Bend ISD.

November 2018

  • The City Manager’s Task Force on the Convict Lease Memorial work concludes. The task force recommends two options. Their first choice was to inter the historical remains on the site where they were found. If the first option was not possible due to legal restrictions, the task force recommended interring the remains at a nearby historical cemetery owned and maintained by the city of Sugar Land. The city of Sugar Land previously worked with the state of Texas to have its cemetery designated as an historic landmark.
  • Fort Bend ISD assumes leadership of the group, which is to be restructured to serve as an advisory committee for the District.

January 2019

  • The city closely monitors the progress of a judge’s deliberation on Fort Bend ISD’s recommendation for the possible relocation of historic bodies found buried on school district property. The disposition of the remains is the legal responsibility of the school district. Once the judge issues a ruling, the city is ready to assist as needed and support the school district and community with memorialization and educational efforts. Sugar Land City Council previously approved an agreement that would allow reinterring the remains to a nearby historic prison cemetery owned and maintained by the city should the judge approve FBISD’s recommendation.

March 2019

  • The city of Sugar Land is partnering with Fort Bend ISD and Fort Bend County to support legislative efforts to find a legal way to allow the county to operate a cemetery on land currently owned by the school district, reinter remains on the site and memorialize 95 people lost to history. The disposition of the remains is the legal responsibility of the school district, and they have decided to reinter the remains where they were found if legally possible. Sugar Land City Council previously approved an agreement that would have allowed the remains to be reinterred to a nearby historic prison cemetery owned and maintained by the city had FBISD chosen to do so.

May 2019

  • The Texas Senate passed House Bill 4179. Pending the governor's signature, the bill will allow the county to own, operate and maintain a cemetery.  Passage of the bill was an important step for efforts to reinter and memorialize the remains of 95 people lost to history who were discovered on a construction site located on land currently owned by the school district. Sugar Land partnered with Fort Bend ISD and Fort Bend County to support the creation and passage of House Bill 4179.

The Old Imperial Farm Cemetery

Additional Resources

Books

  • Penology for Profit: A History of the Texas Prison System, 1867 – 1912 by Donald R. Walker
  • Slavery by Another Name by Douglas Blackmon 

Video

Have Additional Questions?

Fort Bend Independent School District
Veronica Sopher
Chief Communications Officer
[Veronica.Sopher@fortbendisd.com]

City of Sugar Land
Doug Brinkley
Assistant City Manager
[dbrinkley@sugarlandtx.gov]