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Reginald Moore Sugar Land Convict Leasing System research collection

Identifier: MS 0636
Finding aid note: Stored onsite at the Woodson Research Center.

Content Description

Correspondence, reports, research notes, and photographs created and/or maintained by Mr. Reginald Moore, relating to the history of the Convict Leasing System in Sugar Land, Texas and current efforts to publicly recognize that history. The reports included in this collection are in some cases publicly available, but are difficult to access. Correspondence includes letters and emails between Mr. Moore and various public officials and other interested parties such as archaeologist Fred McGhee.


  • Creation: 1878-2018

Conditions Governing Access

This material is open for research.

Conditions Governing Access

Stored onsite at the Woodson Research Center.

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to publish from this material must be facilitated through the Woodson Research Center.

Biographical / Historical

Reginald Moore, of Sugar Land, Texas, has created or maintained this collection of material as part of his work with the Texas Slave Descendants Society. Mr. Moore is an historian and has a certification in Community Economic Development from the College of Biblical Studies. He is also a community activist, and has a particular interest in prison reform and prison re-entry into society. He served as a correctional officer in the Texas Department of Corrections, 1985-1988. Mr. Moore worked in the Beauford H. Jester I and III Units, a prison farm located in unincorporated Fort Bend County, Texas. Jester I Farm was the first built by the state at this site, and was known as the Old Harlem Farm. Although convict leasing as a practice is believed to have begun informally in 1872, the State of Texas sanctioned the contract to lease the penal system to the private firm of Ed H. Cunningham and L.A. Ellis (Cunningham and Ellis) in 1878. In 1883, the land and system reverted from private to state control. While working at this site, Mr. Moore became interested in the history of the Flanagan House (former warden's house) and then in the Central Unit of the prison. Over time, this interest grew and became a major research area for Mr. Moore, who went on to found and chair the Texas Slave Descendants' Society(TSDS) in the early 2000's. Through the TSDS and on his own, Mr. Moore, has worked to gain recognition for the past abuses associated with Sugar Land’s convict leasing system. In 2016, the Texas Slave Descendants Society hosted its annual Labor Day program and honored Dr. Ken Brown (University of Houston) with the Emancipator Award for his archaeological work and advocacy in Sugar Land. Dr. Fred McGhee was recognized with the Lifetime Achievement Award. In the previous year, Dr. Lora Wildenthal (Rice University) was honored with the Emancipator Award for leading her students in highlighting Mr. Moore's work through the Houston Area Research Team program.

Mr. Moore serves as a member of the RIP Guardian program for the Imperial Prison Cemetery. Mr. Moore's son, Reginald J. Moore, earned a B.S. in Criminal Justice from Prairie View AM, and has also contributed to this body of research.

Texas Monthly magazine featured Mr. Moore and his advocacy regarding convict leasing in the January 2017 issue, available online at In Summer 2017, construction began on the Sugar Land Heritage Museum and Visitor Center, with the City of Sugar Land and the Sugar Land Heritage Foundation as partners in its creation. The museum and visitor center are set to open by the end of 2017. Mr. Moore and the Texas Slave Descendants Society has lobbied since 2003 for a separate museum and monument to tell the story of convict leasing and black history, within the context of Fort Bend County history.

In 2018, unmarked graves in the vicinity of the Imperial Prison Cemetery were discovered when the land was being being developed for Fort Bend ISD's future technology center.

Fox 26 News story, "Mystery deepens over unmarked Sugar Land cemetery on Ft. Bend school site" April 13, 2018

KTRK ABC News story: "Historic cemetery found on construction site of Fort Bend ISD's future technology center" April 11, 2018:

KTRK ABC News story: "89 graves found at construction site of Fort Bend ISD's new technology center" April 25, 2018


2.5 Linear Feet (6 boxes)

0.65 Gigabytes (7 video files of Public Comment portions Sugar Land City Council meetings)

Language of Materials


Immediate Source of Acquisition

This material was donated by Reginald Moore in 2015-2018.

Reginald Moore can be contacted by phone.

To contact him, please provide your phone number to the staff at the Woodson Research Center, at or 713-348-2586. The staff will provide your request to Mr. Moore, in accordance with our donor privacy policy. Thank you very much.

Related Materials

An exhibit featuring this material has been created by Rice Univesity students as part of a Houston Area Research Team project in July 2015 under the leadership of Dr. Lora Wildenthal. See the exhibit online at

A physical exhibit called "Convict Leasing in Sugar Land: Featuring the Research Collection of Reginald Moore" was created and displayed at Rice University's Fondren Library in December 2015. This display coincided with the 150th anniversary of the 1865 13th Amendment to the Constitution. A news story in video format is available online at

Additional archival materials relating to Reginald Moore's community activism are located the African American Library at the Gregory School, in Houston, Texas,

Related Materials

News coverage of these 2018 findings, and more are listed at

Guide to the Reginald Moore Sugar Land Convict Leasing System research collection, 1878-2018
Amanda Focke
2018, 2021
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
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Repository Details

Part of the Woodson Research Center, Rice University, Houston, Texas Repository

Fondren Library MS-44, Rice University
6100 Main St.
Houston Texas 77005 USA