Fortune (American slave)

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Fortune (c. 1743 – 1798) was an African-American slave who achieved posthumous notability over the transfer of his remains from a museum storage room to a state funeral.

Under the laws of the 18th century American colonial period, Fortune, his wife Dinah and their four children was the property of Dr. Preserved Porter, a physician based in Waterbury, Connecticut. Fortune drowned in an accident in the Naugatuck River in 1798, and Dr. Porter dissected his body and preserved his skeleton for anatomic study. The Porter family held Fortune’s remains before donating them to the Mattatuck Museum in Waterbury, where they were on display through the 1970s, after which point they were put in storage.[1][2]

In 1999, the museum received national attention when media coverage highlighted the discovery of Fortune’s remains. Although the skeleton was initially dubbed "Larry," as that name was written on its skull, a later investigation by the African-American Historic Project Committee determined the skeleton belonged to Fortune. The museum created a special exhibit in honor of Fortune that detailed the lives of African-American slaves in the early part of the 19th century.[3]

On September 12, 2013, Fortune’s remains were transferred to the Connecticut State Capitol, were they laid in state before being escorted by state police to St. John's Episcopal Church on the Green, the Waterbury parish where Fortune was baptized in 1797, and a funeral at the city’s Riverside Cemetery.[1]

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