‘Human lives were not of value’: African-American remains awaken history of convict-leasing system

Bill Mills experienced firsthand the cruel conditions of Sugar Land’s notorious Imperial Prison Farm.

Back in 1910, he became a part of the Texas prison system shortly after his 17th birthday when he was arrested for horse theft. And though he went on to serve multiple prison terms in Texas, Oklahoma and Georgia, it was his time at Imperial Prison Farm that remained etched in his memory.

“Human lives were not of value,” Mills wrote about Imperial Farm in his book “25 Years Behind Prison Bars.” “Nobody was relieved until he dropped in his tracks. The guards often said the men did not cost them any money and the mules did. That’s why there was more sympathy for the mules than for the men.”

More than a century later, near the land where Texas prisoners picked cotton under…

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