Reginald Moore, Sugar Land 95 Activist and “a People’s Historian,” Leaves Behind a Legacy of Endurance

Historians in the News
tags: racism, African American history, Texas, prisons

In February 2018, construction for the Fort Bend Independent School District's new technology building was underway. After laying a drainage pipe, workers noticed something buried in the dirt — a bone. 

Archaeologists rushed to the scene, where they discovered a total of 95 bodies which became collectively known as the Sugar Land 95. They later found evidence that these were the bodies of Black prisoners who had been victims of Texas's convict leasing system, a system which forced prisoners to do labor once performed by enslaved people. These convicts, who were often charged with felonies for harmless acts or put to work for being orphans, hadn't received proper burial grounds when they passed away, according to University of Houston anthropology professor Kenneth Brown.

The archaeologists' discovery wasn't entirely out of the blue. Since learning about the district’s purchase of the land several years prior, a local man named Reginald Moore had repeatedly warned them about what might be beneath the dirt. Despite Moore's warnings, the school district decided to move forward with the construction.

"If nobody had known and been talking about convict leasing and this system, those bodies could have been found and who knows what would have happened to them," Amanda Focke, the Woodson Research Center's head of special collections, said. "It wouldn't have become this huge realization in our area that that was hard evidence as to what had been going on."

Reginald Moore passed away on July 3 at the age of 60 due to heart failure. Although he is best known for the discovery of the Sugar Land 95, Moore’s mission to honor the victims of the convict leasing system began 30 years before that fateful summer. Since partnering with the Woodson Research Center and Rice’s history department in 2015, his wealth of groundbreaking research will be available to scholars for years to come. Armed with a voice and passion both larger than life, Moore began a community’s crusade to demand historical recognition from city officials, and pioneered a new chapter in Texas history. 

Read entire article at Rice Thresher

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