HOUSTON – Reginald Moore, a local historian who first raised concerns about the Sugar Land 95 gravesite, died Friday at the age of 60, according to the Convict Leasing and Labor Project. Moore founded the CLLP, which exposes the history of the convict leasing system and connects it to modern prison slavery.
“The CLLP board is grateful for the work with such a visionary man and will strive to carry his legacy forward,” the CLLP wrote on Twitter.
According to family, Moore’s cause of death is unknown, but it is not expected to be COVID-19 related.
Moore tirelessly advocated for the city of Sugar Land and Fort Bend County to establish a memorial and museum to recognize the remains of 95 African-Americans that were discovered at a construction site in April 2018. All were male, except for one woman, and they range in age from 14 to 70.
“We want to have art there,” Moore told KPRC 2 in regard to a Sugar Land 95 memorial site in February 2019. “We want to have an educational center. We want to be able to house any artifacts.”
Moore, a retired state corrections officer, alerted the Fort Bend Independent School District of the possibility of human remains on the site at the James Reese Career and Technical Center before construction began. He believed the remains were those of slaves and former slaves, who became part of the state’s convict lease system, established after slavery was outlawed.
“The system said you were free unless convicted of a crime, so that’s how they were able to get slavery back,” Moore said in April 2018.
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.
“To acknowledge the people who made the state of Texas, coming out of slavery. They built this off of free labor. They have sweat equity in this and the story should be told,” Moore told KPRC 2 in April 2018.
When Fort Bend ISD Superintendent Charles Dupre informed Moore of the discovery of the remains, Moore said he was elated, but also saddened.
“I knew it was bodies out here and they should have been discovered and recognized years ago for the work and the things that happened to them,” he said.
Moore was also the caretaker of the Old Imperial Farm Prison Cemetery in Sugar Land. There are only a few gravesites there, but Moore said he always knew there were others.
Syan Rhodes and Kevin Gavin contributed to this report.
With a heavy heart, CLLP confirms the passing of our founder, Reginald Moore. We ask that you respect the privacy of the family in their time of grief. The CLLP board is grateful for to have worked with such a visionary man and will strive to carry his legacy forward. pic.twitter.com/khD6M0Vt0B— cllptx (@cllptx) July 4, 2020