FBISD to open Sugar Land 95 exhibit this spring, hold community sessions on future revitalized cemetery

Fort Bend ISD will open an educational exhibit on the Sugar Land 95 this spring at the James Reese Career and Technical Center. (Hunter Marrow/Community Impact Newspaper)
Fort Bend ISD will open an educational exhibit on the Sugar Land 95 this spring at the James Reese Career and Technical Center. (Hunter Marrow/Community Impact Newspaper)

Fort Bend ISD will open an educational exhibit on the Sugar Land 95 this spring at the James Reese Career and Technical Center. (Hunter Marrow/Community Impact Newspaper)

An educational exhibit for students and the general public detailing the story of the Sugar Land 95 is slated to open this spring at Fort Bend ISD, according to an announcement made to the district’s board of trustees during its Jan. 10 meeting.

The exhibit will serve as the first phase of the district’s Sugar Land 95 Memorialization Project, designed to honor and properly memorialize 95 individuals who are believed to be convicts who died at the Bullhead Convict Labor Camp during Texas’ convict labor leasing program, which was established following the end of the Civil War and is seen as an extension of slavery.

The James Reese Career and Technical Center, where the exhibit will be displayed, is located at the site where the remains of those individuals were first discovered in early 2018 when the career and technical center was being constructed.

Two museum-quality exhibits will be on display at the Reese Center, including one case highlighting the history of convict leasing as it existed in Texas, said Chassidy Olainu-Alade, the district’s community and civic engagement coordinator. The other case focuses primarily on the discovery, scientific research and forensics conducted by researchers to provide an accurate account of what actually occurred on the property, she said.

“The exhibit will provide us with an enrichment opportunity for our students as they participate in tours at the Reese Center,” Olainu-Alade said to the board. “But also, student groups that are interested in learning more about the discovery as they engage in learning about this part of American history will, of course, have the opportunity to use it as well.”


Guided tours by reservation will be available once the exhibit is open, though an opening date is not yet set until FBISD officials feel it is safe to do so due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Olainu-Alade said.

The tours will be integrated into an overall 90-minute Reese Center tour offered three times each month on the first Tuesday, the second Saturday, and the third Thursday, Olainu-Alade said.

The second phase of the project—an outdoor learning environment and revitalized cemetery at the original site—approved through a $170,000 design contract by the board of trustees Nov. 15 will be home to some type of monument or marker with the goal of having a memorial site where visitors can come and learn, Olainu-Alade said. In addition, the plan is to install informational features, such as signage and placards.

The contractor for the second phase, Boston-based nonprofit MASS Design Group, will be in the district as early as March for a 10-week community engagement process. In that time, the district will hold four community engagement sessions where the community will be able to give their input on what they want the site to achieve, Olainu-Alade said. Once that schedule is defined, it will be posted on the district’s Sugar Land 95 website. The first community engagement session will be held in March, though an exact date has yet to be determined.
By Hunter Marrow
Hunter Marrow came to Community Impact Newspaper in January 2020. Before that, Hunter covered local news in Ontario, OR for three years, covering municipal issues, crime, and education across Malheur County and across the border into Idaho.