The recently appointed City Manager’s Task Force on the Convict Lease Memorial met for the first time on Sept. 5 and unanimously supported DNA testing of historical remains discovered on property owned by Fort Bend Independent School District.
The task force requested the preparation of a letter formalizing their support for DNA testing, which will be sent to the Texas Historical Commission by Fort Bend ISD. Community and stakeholder support will be part of the commissions’ decision on whether teeth will be removed from each person buried in the school district’s unmarked grave for future DNA testing.
“We had an engaged, diverse group of stakeholders participate,” said City Manager Allen Bogard. “All together, we had a little more than 30 people in attendance at the meeting.”
The vote to support DNA testing occurred after presentations on DNA sampling from Dr. Catrina Whitley, a bioarcheologist, and Cultural Resources Director Reign Clark, of Goshawk Environmental Consulting.
The task force will continue to work during the next six months to provide a recommendation on the interment, memorialization and ceremonial funeral details of historical remains discovered on property owned by Fort Bend Independent School District. The work of the task force will be important once an agreement is finalized for the future relocation of the remains.
“This task force is the best vehicle to garner community, educator and stakeholder consensus for re-interment at the Old Imperial Prison Cemetery,” said Bogard. “The task force understands that a consensus will be needed for a re-interment plan and memorialization before a formal agreement can be considered by city council. Based on our first meeting, I believe they are committed to working collaboratively to achieve this very important goal.”
The meetings are open to the public and will be held on the first and third Wednesday of each month for the first two months and then one Wednesday a month thereafter.
Those in attendance included the city of Sugar Land, Fort Bend ISD, the Sugar Land Heritage Foundation, the Fort Bend Historical Commission, the Texas Historical Commission, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Houston Area Urban League, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Embassy Church, Rice University Professor Caleb McDaniel and members of the Sugar Land community. Also in attendance was Reginald Moore, of the Texas Slave Descendants Society (a group now called the Convict Leasing and Labor Project).
For more about the city’s cemetery and efforts to preserve, protect and honor the area’s past, visit www.sugarlandtx.gov/1694/The-Imperial-Farm-Cemetery.