“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.