HOUSTON – Nearly five months after human remains were found on a Fort Bend ISD construction site, experts now say they believe they know more about who is buried there.
Since February, 95 graves have been identified at the location of the new James Reese Career and Technical Center.
In June, a court granted FBISD permission to begin exhuming the remains as dozens of local and out of state archeologists study the site.
According to the district, preliminary analysis indicates the remains may be those of African-Americans who were part of the state's convict leasing system.
The state program, created in the post-Emancipation Reconstruction era, notoriously imprisoned newly freed slaves on often bogus charges and then leased them back to the plantation owners who still needed cheap labor.
Archeologists are studying the bones to learn how those people lived and died.
"We can see the majority of the individuals doing extremely heavy labor for a very long time," said Catrina Whitley from the New Mexico Office of Archeological Studies.
Whitley said of the 95 graves exhumed so far, all of the remains belong to people of African-American descent and all are male, except for one woman. They range in age from 14 to 70.
Construction of the new center has continued around the archeological work. It is set to open in 2019.
FBISD said it will continue to work under the guidance of the Texas Historical Commission to find an appropriate location for reburial.
Local historian Reginald Moore, who first alerted county and school officials to the possible gravesite, hopes to work with the city of Sugar Land and Fort Bend County to establish a memorial and museum.