The remains were discovered in February 2018 while a contractor worked on construction for Fort Bend ISD's James Reese Career Center and Technical Center. The group was dubbed the "Sugar Land 95."
The reburials will occur in the days and weeks following the memorial service, according to Fort Bend ISD. But the announcement came as a surprise to other officials involved in the process, including Fort Bend County Judge K.P. George.
“We have no communication with Fort Bend ISD. Very sorry to say that. That is absolutely a unilateral decision by Fort Bend ISD,” George told News 88.7.
The discussion of how to honor and reinter the Sugar Land 95 has been going on for almost two years. Earlier this year, Fort Bend County and Fort Bend ISD entered into negotiations for the county to operate and maintain the cemetery where the remains will be buried. An agreement on the specifics of that plan has yet to be finalized.
“At the moment, there is no discussion between (the) county and Fort Bend ISD going on,” George noted, saying the negotiations are stalled. School district officials said the talks have been ongoing.
The memorial service will include a public ceremony to bless the ground where the remains were found and a candlelight walk.
Fort Bend ISD spokesperson Amanda Bubela said there is no definitive date for the first reburials, saying it depends on weather conditions and the delivery of special caskets the district has ordered.
Bubela said the district is sure the reinterments will happen this fall. George said he’d like to have court approval before the reburials. In the past, Fort Bend ISD has said court approval is not necessary.
Part of the controversy surrounding the "Sugar Land 95" had to do with the possibility of finding descendants. Experts concluded the remains were African Americans, many of them likely former slaves, who were forced to work as part of the Texas convict lease system in the late 1800s. Some community members wanted DNA testing performed before the reburials.
Fort Bend ISD has said material for DNA analysis was collected and will be curated at the Texas Archaeological Research Laboratory at the University of Texas. The school district said that will preserve the ability to identify potential descendants.
Since the discovery of the remains, the issue also gained traction on Twitter with the hashtag #SugarLand95. Fort Bend County residents and elected officials, including U.S. Rep. Al Green, Texas State Rep. Ron Reynolds and Fort Bend County District Attorney Brian Middleton, have been vocal about the need to properly honor and rebury the group.
Fort Bend ISD said there will be a second memorial event after the reinterments have been finalized.
You can see a timeline of events prepared by the Fort Bend Independent School District by clicking here.