Fort Bend County officials are set to break ground this summer on an African American Memorial to pay homage to less-known history.

Two-minute impact

The Fort Bend County African American Memorial, located at Bates Allen Park in Kendleton, aims to acknowledge past injustices, restore human dignity and celebrate African Americans’ contributions to the county, according to project documents from Fort Bend County Precinct 4.

“The contributions of African Americans in this area was just a bedrock and a foundation, but telling these stories and telling this history is important to how we preserve the telling of the stories of many other people,” Precinct 4 Commissioner Dexter McCoy said.

The future memorial is inspired by the 2018 discovery of remains of 95 people on a Fort Bend ISD construction site who were believed to have been part of Texas’ convict labor and leasing program. These individuals, dubbed the Sugar Land 95, are remembered through a memorial and educational component at the site—now the James Reese Career and Technical Education Center.

The details

The memorial project will include two axes: one pointing toward Africa and the other toward Sugar Land, where the Sugar Land 95 were found, McCoy said. Phase 1 will also feature a:
  • Juneteenth Freedom Plaza
  • Three-story imposing monument, dedicated to the African American giants in history
  • Fragmented walkway
  • Convict labor and leasing memorial, which will host 95 trees representing the Sugar Land 95
“The architects did a really great job of pulling on the elements of the scattered piece of the African diaspora—people scattered all around the world emanating from Africa,” McCoy said. “All of those fragmented pieces have come together in Fort Bend County to make a beautiful mosaic.”

Funding for the more than $10 million project was approved by voters in the 2020 and 2023 Fort Bend County parks bonds, McCoy said. In addition to the memorial, the funds will also support the extension of utilities.

Digging in

The memorial will be constructed in Kendleton, a small town west of Rosenberg that is one of the original freedmen’s towns in the area founded by six families of emancipated slaves, McCoy said. Bates Allen Park is home to two historical freedmen burial sites and is the final resting place of various African American leaders, including Benjamin Franklin Williams, the first Black Texas state representative.

“When you go out there to that site, it is not reflective of the stature of the people and their consequence to our community and our county,” McCoy said. “So, what we’re doing is restoring dignity to them, honoring them and celebrating the contributions that they and many other African Americans in Fort Bend County have had for our region and our state.”

What they’re saying

Growing up in Fort Bend County, McCoy said he did not know of the rich African American history in the area and didn’t learn it until much later, like many others in the area.

“As a young Black kid, I never knew much of this history of my people in my own backyard,” he said. “I did not know about the contributions made by folks who look like me. ... When I think that we don’t tell these stories, these rich stories about our history, what does that mean for that child, like myself, in this community and about how I view myself in relation to the community, and how proud I feel about being a part of this community?”

Looking forward

Groundbreaking of Phase 1 was set to take place on June 19 but has since been postponed due to weather; although an exact rescheduled date has not been determined. Phase 1 of the African American Memorial is expected to be open to the public in late 2025, McCoy said.

The memorial will also feature future phases, which will include a lynching reflection pond. Beyond the memorial, the park will also feature later phases, including the addition of the a learning center.