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State Representative Proposes Paying $95 Million In Reparations To Descendants Of Sugar Land 95

Ron Reynolds says the money could come from Texas’ General Revenue Fund or from the Rainy Day Fund and identification of the next of kin would be done through DNA testing.

Elizabeth Trovall/Houston Public Media
Archaeologists work at the discovered grave sites in Sugar Land.

State Representative Ron Reynolds has filed legislation proposing that Texas pays $95 million in reparations to the descendants of 95 African American prison inmates who were forced to work in a Sugar Land plantation while they were serving their time in the 19th century. The remains of the inmates are often referred to by members of the community and elected officials as the Sugar Land 95.

A contractor discovered the remains in February of 2018 while working on the initial phase to build a career and technical center for the Fort Bend County Independent School District. The inmates were part of the convict lease system, which started in Texas in 1867.

The issue has sparked controversy on what to do with the remains and Fort Bend County and the school district are currently negotiating a permanent plan.

Texas House of Representatives
Texas State Representative Ron Reynolds.

Reynolds' legislation is a joint resolution proposing a constitutional amendment to require payment of the reparations. He told News 88.7 his goal is that each descendant of the 95 inmates receives $1 million. Reynolds said the money could come from the state's General Revenue Fund or from the Economic Stabilization Fund, commonly referred to as the Rainy Day Fund.

Reynolds said identification of the next of kin would be done through DNA testing. "I think it's going to be challenging, an uphill climb that I have," said Reynolds, a Democrat who represents District 27, which includes Fort Bend County.

Reynolds has also filed other legislation about the Sugar Land 95 that calls for placing a plaque to honor the victims of the convict leasing system in the spot that used to hold a confederate marker in the Texas Capitol.

He also wants to conduct a study to determine the legacy of convict leasing in Texas and create a museum to educate the public on the state’s history of convict leasing.

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