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Fort Bend ISD Halts Litigation Over Sugar Land 95, Remains Likely To Be Reinterred

Community members and elected officials have asked the school district to rebury the remains at the site where they were discovered a year ago.

Elizabeth Trovall/Houston Public Media
Archaeologists work at a Fort Bend County site where unmarked graves were found. The discovered remains are believed to be 95 African-American prison inmates who were forced to work in the sugar cane fields.

The Fort Bend Independent School District is halting legal actions regarding the final destination for the remains of 95 individuals that were discovered a year ago, and that experts have determined were likely African-American convicts leased by the State of Texas to provide labor to a local plantation in the 19th century.

A contractor discovered the remains in February of 2018 while working on the initial phase to build the school district’s career and technical center.

Community members have called the group of remains the ‘Sugar Land 95' and have asked the school district to rebury them at the site where they were found. A number of elected officials, including Congressman Al Green, Fort Bend County Judge KP George and District Attorney Brian Middleton, also support that request.

Fort Bend ISD and Fort Bend County have begun negotiations on what to do with the remains. George told News 88.7 last week the goal is not to move the remains, but if they are moved, to rebury them in "close proximity" to the current site.

Legal actions about the remains started in June of 2018 when Judge James H. Shoemake, who presides over Fort Bend County's 434th District Court, granted permission to exhume them.

Between November and December of 2018, after Fort Bend ISD reached an agreement with the City of Sugar Land to rebury the remains at the Old Imperial Prison Farm Cemetery, the school district asked Shoemake for permission for the reburial, but he delayed the decision and appointed a Master in Chancery to oversee the case.

At that point, Fort Bend ISD filed a motion to object to the appointment of a Master in Chancery and an appeals court granted a stay of the appointment, pending further review.

The school district announced on Thursday that it will halt further legal actions.

FBISD Board President Jason Burdine said in a statement the plan to build a portion of the James Reese Career and Technical Center "that is within the cemetery area has been cancelled."

He said the district would work to find a solution “as quickly as possible and keep our promise to honor and educate the public and future generations about the 95 souls who were previously lost to history.”

Burdine added the school district is confident the negotiation with the county will result in an appropriate memorial and historic cemetery, in which the bodies will be reinterred.


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