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Sugar Land group calls for 2 streets to be renamed to honor African American heroes

SUGAR LAND – A Sugar Land resident is petitioning to have two street names changed in the New Territory neighborhood.

Ellis Creek Boulevard and Cunningham Creek Boulevard are named after L.A. Ellis and Ed H. Cunningham, two plantation owners from the 1800s, according to resident Paul Matthews.

The street names hold a controversial connection to the neighborhood, Matthews said.

In 2018, human remains were found at the construction site for the James Reese Career and Technical Center. Investigators later determined the ‘Fort Bend 95’ were prisoners, forced to work on plantations as part of the convict leasing program.

“The state of Texas leased convicts to sugar plantations and the sugar plantation used these men as slaves,” said Matthews. “The two most egregious perpetrators of the convict leasing program were Cunningham and Ellis.”

Matthews said he wants to rename the streets after meaningful figures in black history.

Walter Burton was the first African American sheriff in Fort Bend County and later served four years as a state senator.
Walter Burton was the first African American sheriff in Fort Bend County and later served four years as a state senator. (KPRC)

Ellis Creek Boulevard would become Burton Creek Boulevard after Walter Burton, who was the first African American sheriff in Fort Bend County and later served four years as a state senator.

Cunningham Creek Boulevard would be named after Garrett Gamble, who was a U.S. Marine and Fort Bend High School graduate who was killed while serving in Afghanistan.

The road to changing the street names has not been an easy one, said Matthews.

The New Territory Residential Community Association (NTRCA) opted not to act on Matthews’ petition.

Instead, the association left the decision to residents like Maria Masood.

“It’s a literal headache to change the address of everything,” said Masood. “Driver’s license… everything, you know? I have a baby and it’s hectic for me.”

Another New Territory resident, Don Mcquaig said changing the street names would stifle the past.

“I don’t believe in re-writing history,” said Mcquaig. “I believe history is a lesson and should be taught and learned and re-taught and re-learned.”

According to NTRCA, 85% of residents who participated in Matthews’ petition voted against the street name changes.

Matthews said he will continue to petition for the name changes and hopes to educate his neighbors on the historical background.

“We’re just trying to make people aware and correct an egregious error that occurred,” said Matthews.

The next neighborhood vote will take place in January 2021.