FORT BEND COUNTY, Texas – The remains of 95 incarcerated African-Americans that were found on a Fort Bend Independent School District construction site in June will stay where they are for now until more tests are done.
A Fort Bend County judge Monday morning ruled in favor of the community advisory council.
The ruling will halt school construction and allow more time for DNA testing to identify the remains of 95 ancestral Africans discovered on FBISD's construction site earlier this year.
FBISD lawyers and community members, along with individuals from the Black United Front, presented their cases to the judge in court.
Fort Bend ISD said it was in the best interest of the students' education to re-inter the remains at the Sugar Land Farm Cemetery. Archeologists would still have access to the bodies' DNA and there would be a memorial for the remains.
But community members said the bodies represent victims of crimes against humanity from the 1870s. African slaves who were locked in the state's convict lease system.
Reports state that all remains analyzed so far are black men and one black woman. Community members said moving the bodies would desecrate the remains and it would be disrespectful to move the former slaves from those grounds without doing more to find out who they are.
Judge James Shoemake agreed, ruling in their favor.
"This find is very different from any other. We have a history that's different. I want some more effort. This is important stuff. Families and communities are affected by this. You came here for permission (to build the school), I'm not going to give you permission," the judge said.
"Sugar Land has a dirty little secret and it ain't so sweet. This is an example how this beautiful suburb was built off of that free labor," Kofi Taharka, with the Black United Front, said.
"Our sole mission is to educate students and we only exist to learn. The more knowledge we have the better. We want DNA testing. We want answers we want to connect the body with the name, and we want to tell the story of an individual," Veronica Sopher, chief communications officer with FBISD, said.
The remains will not be moved for the time being, and construction will be put on hold while DNA testing of the remains is done.
The judge estimated a timeline for a decision no later than the end of March.
We are live at Fort Bend County Court this morning where a judge has ruled in favor of more DNA testing for African ancestral remains found on Fort Bend ISD site earlier this year. Construction of school now halted, remains will not be moved. Details at 11 am on @KPRC2 pic.twitter.com/Rw6T0SS6r0— Sofía Ojeda (@KPRC2SofiaOjeda) November 19, 2018