SUGAR LAND – A Sugar Land non-profit invites the community to take part in a Juneteenth tribute for the Sugar Land 95.
Robin Cole is making it her duty to honor the Sugar Land 95. What started out as research in 2019, evolved into a mission for the president of the Society of Justice and Equality for the People of Sugar Land (S.O.J.E.S.)
“It feels as though this is sacred land,” said Cole. “That once upon a time, we had people whose lives were cut short because of the nature of harvesting sugar cane.”
Human remains were first found at the Bullhead Camp Cemetery in 2018 while Fort Bend County ISD’s James C. Reese Career and Technical Center was under construction. It was discovered that 94 men and one woman-- who were part of a convict leasing program to build railroads and farm sugar cane in the 1800′s — were also buried at the site. Many of the remains are still being analyzed through DNA to try to identify the individuals.
“Convict leasing was worse than slavery because no one owned them. They were considered victims or criminals of the State of Texas and they were leased for like pennies on a dollar,” said Cole.
Slavery wasn’t abolished in Texas until June 19, 1865, more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed. It’s also known as Juneteenth. This Juneteenth, Cole wants the community to join her in paying tribute to the Sugar Land 95 at the site of the historic cemetery.
Cole said the celebration and tribute will be emotional. The plan is to place flags at each of the 95 gravesites.
“When you go to Arlington National Cemetery right outside of Washington, D.C., they have like the tomb of the unknown soldiers, and they lay flags there in honor of the people who fought for our country,” Cole said. “Well, we feel as though the Sugar Land 95 also fought for the right to live.”
The Juneteenth celebration and tribute for the Sugar Land 95 will take place at Bullhead Camp Cemetery in Sugar Land at 11:30 a.m. on June 19.
Cole said the plan is to have a memorial park at the site, museum and educational center in the future.