Texas-sized tragedy: Dark truths about American history
JEFFREY L. BONEY | 10/8/2018, 11:38 a.m.
The town of Sugar Land eventually formed around it and after Cunningham’s plantation changed hands and became the home of the Imperial Sugar Company, the leasing of convicts continued.
In 1883, the land and the convict leasing system reverted to state control.
In 1909, the state of Texas opened the Imperial State Penitentiary Farm on land that had previously belonged to Imperial Sugar. This was one of the first prison farms that the state of Texas owned.
Back in 1930, that prison farm was renamed the Central State Penitentiary Farm and the Texas state legislature approved funding to expand construction for additional units. Over the years, the land was transferred and/or sold to other interested parties to aid in Sugar Land’s rapid development – such as the land sold to Fort Bend ISD where the 95 bodies were recently found.
Moore expressed that a memorial for the group should be established as a form of restitution, but he also wants the state of Texas to issue a formal apology for this horrific legalized institution.
“I believe the state of Texas owes these individuals a formal apology for their decision to legalize such a horrible and inhumane system,” he said. “Yes, I believe these people deserve a memorial, but there is so much more to it than that. I have a duty to be an advocate for them and to speak from the grave for these people. I believe there are more bodies out there and I want there to be more sensitivity and concern for the bodies that haven’t been found yet. This system was wrong and there must be accountability.”
Sugar Land City Manager Allen Bogard appointed a task force that will provide a recommendation on the interment, memorialization and ceremonial funeral details of the historical remains.
“The cemetery was found because of Reginald Moore’s advocacy and dedication to the history of convict lease labor in the area,” Bogard said. “I can’t stress enough the importance of our task force. It is important that it comprises diverse community stakeholders, and I believe we’ve accomplished this purpose. We are very pleased to continue to have the historical expertise of Mr. Moore from the Convict Leasing and Labor Project. He has been a longtime advocate of memorialization and education concerning this dark period of the state’s history. We believe that no one can speak ‘for the bones’ of these individuals with more passion and accuracy than Mr. Moore.”
The goal of the task force will be to ensure that the remains of the people discovered on the school district’s property are memorialized with the utmost dignity and in a manner that honors their historical significance. The task force will also provide a recommendation for future educational efforts to preserve a dark chapter of the region’s history.
The creation of the task force was recommended by the Texas Historical Commission and emulates a strategy implemented by the city of Waco after an unmarked historical cemetery was discovered during a construction project in the West Texas town.