The Fort Bend ISD Board of Trustees approved the principal terms of an Interlocal Agreement that will transfer ownership of an abandoned and historic cemetery to Fort Bend County, following the passage of legislation that amended state law permitting the county to own and operate a cemetery.
Based on an investigation of the site, which was discovered during construction of the district’s James Reese Career and Technical Center, archaeologists believe the 95 African Americans buried at the property were likely convicts who were leased by the state to provide convict labor to a local plantation.
The action grants authority to board president Jason Burdine to complete negotiations with the county to finalize details of the agreement, prior to the county’s action.
“We are excited and hopeful that we will be able to move forward with an agreement that will allow these individuals to be reinterred and memorialized,” Burdine said in a news release. “While the negotiations continue, we are making progress and are confident that we can come to a joint resolution.”
Earlier Monday, school district leaders joined with elected officials from the county, the state legislature and U.S. Rep. Al Green to reiterate a shared desire to appropriately honor the “Sugar Land 95” and celebrate the passage of House Bill 4179.
The legislation, signed by Gov. Greg Abbott earlier this month, amended a state statute to allow Fort Bend County to own and operate a cemetery, which was not permissible under previous law.
“FBISD is thrilled that our county leaders have stepped up to recognize and honor the contributions of these 95 individuals, and the state lawmakers who carried the torch to Austin to change law,” FBISD superintendent Charles Dupre said in a news release.