Several Fort Bend County elected officials will be in Sugar Land on Monday morning to address that the county will own and operate a historic cemetery of the remains of 95 African-American state convicts.

This comes after the state of Texas passed a bill allowing the county to own and operate a cemetery. House Bill 4179 was signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott on June 7.

HB 4179 allows counties with populations over 550,000 and are next to a county with a population of 3.3 million to own and operate a cemetery. Previously, the Texas Health and Safety Code only allowed smaller counties to run cemeteries.

The press conference also means that Fort Bend County is in the final stages of working out a deal with Fort Bend ISD to own the cemetery next to James Reese Career and Technical Center, which is scheduled to open in August.

The signing of the bill is the beginning of the end of an ordeal that began in February of 2018, when construction workers discovered human remains during early construction of the Reese Center.

In April of 2018, FBISD and the Texas Historical Commission announce the discovery of a historic cemetery, discovering the graves of 95 individuals who were part of the state’s convict-leasing program from the late 1800s to the early 1900s.

The convicts would be later known as the Sugar Land 95.

Last October, Fort Bend ISD asked permission to a district court to exhume the remains and move them to a nearby cemetery, but community activists petitioned the court and were granted a stay, pending both sides can negotiate a resolution.

Last February, Fort Bend County Commissioners Court authorized the county attorney to negotiate an interlocal agreement with FBISD to allow the county to build and maintain a park and cemetery next to the Reese Center.

Local politicians in the Texas Legislature worked to craft the bill and pass it in the House and Senate, and was signed into law by Abbott.

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