The NYT says Sugarland, Texas needs to come to terms with its past

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tags: slavery, Texas, emancipation, Sugarland, convict leasing

The blood-drenched history that gave the city of Sugar Land, Tex., its name showed its face earlier this year, when a school construction crew discovered the remains of 95 African-Americans whose unmarked graves date back more than a century. The dead — some of whom may have been born in slavery — are victims of the infamous convict leasing system that arose after Emancipation. Southerners sought to replace slave labor by jailing African-Americans on trumped-up charges and turning them over to, among others, sugar cane plantations in the region once known as the Sugar Bowl of Texas.

A bitter debate has erupted in Sugar Land, a fast-growing suburb southwest of Houston. Sugar Land officials, who want to move the remains to a nearby cemetery, are at odds with members of a city-appointed task force who rightly argue that a historical find of this magnitude should be memorialized on the spot where it was discovered.

Against this backdrop, archaeologists, who are constructing an increasingly detailed portrait of the injuries and illnesses suffered by these inmates, have opened a window onto the murderous nature of sugar cultivation, an industry that earned its reputation as the slaughterhouse of the trans-Atlantic slave trade by killing more people more rapidly than any other kind of agriculture.

Read entire article at NYT Editorial

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