Skip to comments.Funeral Held for Connecticut Slave Who Died in 1798
Posted on 09/12/2013 11:25:48 PM PDT by nickcarraway
The man who owned Mr. Fortune boiled his bones to preserve them for study
A slave who died more than 200 years ago in Connecticut but was never buried has finally been given a funeral and will be laid to rest.
The Rev. Amy D. Welin of St. John's Episcopal Church in Waterbury told hundreds gathered for the service Thursday that Mr. Fortune, as he was called, was being buried not as a slave "but as a child of God who is blessed.''
"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 a bone surgeon, Dr. Preserved Porter, on a farm in Waterbury. When Fortune died in 1798, Porter preserved his skeleton by having the bones boiled to study anatomy. At the time, cadavers for medical study were disproportionately taken from slaves, servants and prisoners.
One of Porter's descendants gave the skeleton to Mattatuck Museum in Waterbury in 1933, 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 exactly how he died.
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 a past president of the Waturbury NAACP branch, 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.
Fortune was buried near contemporaries who never would have spoken to him or viewed him as human, said Mullins, who is the 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.
I wonder if Mr. Fortune is related to Amos Fortune, an 18th century African slave (though in his circumstances, he was closer to being an indentured servant), who purchased his freedom, and became financially successful as a tanner. I read the Newbery Award book about him in 3rd grade. It was better than I expected.
Rest in peace, Mr. Fortune.
Free at last...
Why this guy?
I first saw this as a day-long orgasm of white guilt. Now, I have to wonder what the politics behind it is....
Open for opinions....
He was also a slave in Massachusetts, the North.
I think hearing stories like this and George Washington Carver would serve a higher purpose.
My post above regarding the slave from the North is referring to Amos Fortune.
Give me a break
Yes, I see his mourners included the couple in the picture, who obviously venerate that great, successful continent of Africa. I always want to say “then go back!!” to people like these. Although I’m glad the poor man’s bones were buried. He must’ve been in such pain.
I mean when he was alive
They buried him in a Christian manner. Was he a Christian?
He was a baptized Episcopalian.
Slavery was a sad thing, and I think all in all, was a bad deal for everyone.