While beginning construction on Fort Bend Independent School District’s new James Reese Career and Technical Center, a disturbing site was discovered. The bodies of 95 people were found in a mass grave. The bodies are suspected to be the remains of black people who were “leased” into forced labor by the state of Texas and subsequently worked to death.
After the construction company began to break ground in February, the first remains were found leading archaeologists on a journey that would eventually uncover 95 people. According to the archaeologists, these people were probably part of Texas’ convict lease system.
The convict lease system first came about in Texas in 1867 when railroad companies needed cheap labor to construct their railways. Despite slavery being made illegal after the Civil War, black people were still rounded up and mass incarcerated only to be sold back into servitude through the government’s new program.
For decades, state prisons acted as forced labor camps and raised a significant portion of money for the Texas government. Although it was illegal for individuals to own slaves, when government officials came up with the convict lease system, it essentially created a loophole that legalized slavery — for the government only.
This system continued well into the 20th century and only ended when a reporter for the San Antonio Express began writing a series of articles exposing this horrific practice of state slavery. After the exposé on the convict lease system, the government ended all the leases and brought the black men back to the prisons where they were unfortunately still forced to work on state-owned farms, or on private property the state had acquired through long term agreements.
Remnants of this system are still alive today as prisons across the country pay prisoners — many of whom are incarcerated for victimless crimes — little to no money for their labor.
According to reports, the bodies found in the Sugarland location, just outside of Houston, were in wooden coffins. Investigators estimate that they could’ve been put into the ground as late as 1910.
Researchers noted that the bodies all showed signs that they were severely malnourished and must have undergone massive physical stress.
Reign Clark of Goshawk Environmental Consulting, who is participating in the excavation of the bodies, said there is a lot of evidence that they were doing heavy labor at the time of their deaths. Even more disturbing is the fact that many of the bodies are thought to be children as young as 14.
“We can tell from the state of the bone and muscle attachment features that these were heavily built individuals. Some bones were misshapen by the sheer musculature and labor,” Clark told CNN.
Sadly, these mass graves are not rare. It is estimated there could be as many as 50,000 cemeteries across the state.
These state run mass graves are not unique to Texas either. As TFTP reported last year, thousands of bodies were discovered, buried under the University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC) campus. The bodies are a result of a decades-long program in a failed government institution to deal with people the state declared mentally unfit for society — including depression, those who read books, “laziness,” the “over study of religion,” and “political excitement,” to name a few.
As the United States was wrapping up its dark and violent history of sentencing people to jail and death for participating in witchcraft, the state found a new progressive way to deal with those who they deemed unfit for society.
Lock them in an Insane Asylum, eventually kill them, and them bury them in the backyard.