NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) — Abused in life and death, an enslaved man known as Mr. Fortune will be honored with an elaborate funeral more than 200 years after he died in Connecticut.
Fortune’s remains will lie in state in the Capitol rotunda in Hartford on Thursday before taken by state police escort to Waterbury for a memorial service at the church where he was baptized and burial in a cemetery filled with prominent residents. Plans call for bagpipers and the singing of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.”
“It’s a long overdue honor,” said Steven R. Mullins, one of the organizers. “We’re not just remembering one man. His body is representing all of the slaves that came over here and worked in this country.”
Fortune was owned by Dr. Preserved Porter on a farm in Waterbury. When Fortune died in 1798, Porter, a bone surgeon, preserved his skeleton by having the bones boiled to study anatomy at a time when cadavers for medical study were disproportionately taken from slaves, servants and prisoners.
One of Porter’s descendants gave the skeleton in 1933 to Mattatuck Museum in Waterbury, where it was displayed from the 1940s until 1970. The descendant referred to the slave as “Larry,” and his name was forgotten at the time.
A local historical account from 1896 claimed “Larry” slipped on a rock and drowned in the river. Tests over the years, including a recent exam at Quinnipiac University, found evidence of a neck fracture around the time of death not associated with hanging. The university has not been able to determine his cause of death.
The study by Quinnipiac concluded that Fortune was about 5 feet 5 inches tall and died when he was around 55 years old, said Richard Gonzalez, an assistant professor and forensic anthropologist at Quinnipiac’s school of medicine. He suffered a number of painful ailments, including a fracture in his left hand, a severe ankle sprain and lower back pain.
“He was an individual who was in considerable distress,” Gonzalez said.
The museum has long wanted to give Fortune a proper burial, director Bob Burns said. The latest tests, which included CT scans of the bones, will allow researchers to continue studying the bones without the physical need for them, he said.
“We’ve always had a desire to finally put these remains to rest but there was always a concern that there may be some new opportunity to learn more in the future. And that future is right now,” Burns said.
Maxine Watts, chairman of a committee involved with the project and past president of the NAACP, shared those concerns. Now that the latest tests have been done, she said it’s time to bury Fortune.
“Now we feel even though he was used that way he did prove underneath the skin we’re all the same,” Watts said of the earlier anatomical study of the skeleton.
The Rev. Amy D. Welin of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Waterbury, who will preside over the funeral, said she considers Fortune a parishioner, albeit one who died long ago.
“I think it’s been a very convoluted path to justice,” Welin said. “I’m hoping we can use this as a learning experience and a time of reflection on how do we as human beings treat one another and how do we deal with issues of diversity now.”
Fortune will be buried near contemporaries who never would have spoken to him or viewed him as human, said Mullins, president of the southern Connecticut chapter of the Union of Black Episcopalians. He noted the use and display of his bones was done without his consent.
“He will be at a place of honor completely contrary to the life he and his family and his colleagues in slavery ever knew,” Mullins said.
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This Week’s Celebrity Instagrams (10/15-10/21)
31 photos Launch gallery
1. Just a NY girl with BIG dreams....
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2. HAPPY CHILDREN=QUALITY PARENTING. We don't always see eye to eye on everything and that's normal. We're human beings. But we come together and do it right for what's important, the kids. We are not enemies, we are parents. And we are parents 1st. S/O to @monyettashaw for making Mason's bday memorable. S/O to @itscrystalsmith at home taking care of our other lil' Prince. ❤️❤️❤️ THIS IS WHAT CO-PARENTING LOOKS LIKE. #Blessed #Happy #AboveTheDrama #BiggerThanUs
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3. So happy to finally be able to share with you all that I’m the new Global Brand Ambassador for @Revlon! Follow my day on RevlonSnaps. Yay! Choose Love, Everybody! #RevlonXCiara #chooselove #ad
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4. Glam on point!!!@makeupbymotoko & @shaylinjoneshair #easybreezy @lifetimetv #beachesmovie #january2017 😘
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5. ✨True love ✨📸: @jessiemarrerophotography
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7. Today was not easy..but by the grace of God we all got through it. Words cannot express our gratitude for all of your Prayers, Positive thoughts and Support for us throughout the years. Tommy will be missed but most certainly never forgotten...And PLEASE don't ask "Where's Martin?.." he was there too...just not in this picture. Lol! God bless you all.. #LoveConquersAll #MartinShow
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9. West coast get ready for #RockyHorror. I will be live tweeting again. #letsdothetimewarpagain
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10. #THEKEYS pre order yours now ... Available everywhere #NOV22 #WeTheBest 🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑
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11. We about to ROCK at #KCABlackBall!! All for our life-changing effort to end 🌎 AIDS.
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12. Today's #SNAPJACK is brought to you by @yazzthegreatest 😂😂😂💋💋💋
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13. Damn girl you kinda old to be headed to the Go Go. You coming in at the age they leaving. LMAO
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14. Daddy daycare B-Boxin with @acewellstucker @shopraisingace
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15. #FBF Naviyd & URV "LIL MONSTERS"
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16. HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ONE OF THE BIGGEST LEGENDS IN OUR HIPHOP HISTORY! @snoopdogg CONTINUED BLESSING AND LOVE FAMILY!!!!! REAL OG!
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17. Thank you for a beautiful night VSU! Let's do it again! #HOMECOMING
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18. Had a great time this morning with my familia Erica, Griff & Truth!!
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19. Check out my interview on @essence facebook live. #inmyownwords #nycpromo #day2
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20. #She💋 #tbt #TheCoveAtTheAtlantis #DawgPawsAndAll
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21. Bae #retailtherapy
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22. Why me and @coryhardrict got the same pose... and notee... new mouth #naked
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23. When my husband is my personal 'hype-man'! it kills me every time! 💜😂 #WHATNOW #lostfiles📷
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24. Diggy Simmons
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25. Hand full of @jacquieaiche 💙💎💍 @esnail_la 💅🏾
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26. SuperSoulers! You can watch my interview with Carl Lentz live from my Facebook page, tomorrow at 11a ET| 8a PT. #SuperSoulSunday
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27. 💋 .. When the friendship is easy like Sunday morning. ☀️
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28. Sunday mornings are the best........... hugs and cuddles with my angel
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29. #huggar16 #hellohuggars
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30. My gym is everywhere!.. #RnBMoney #TheGeneral 📸: @twelvepastseven
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31. Nothing I would rather be doing... Rocko setting up our movie, Romelō working on a puzzle & Laiyah singing and sharing all she's learning at school... I'm so grateful for the joy they've brought into my life ... Praying for peace , joy & love in the home of EVERY family ♥️ #HeadScarfPJSunday LOL 😂
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