Hidden History: One man’s bones tell a story of slavery

Black History Month

WATERBURY, Conn. (WTNH) – An enslaved man who passed in 1798, was used not only in life but in death by the surgeon who owned him. 

Mr. Fortune was enslaved, with his family, by Preserved Porter, a surgeon in Waterbury, Connecticut. 

After his death, Dr. Porter skeletonized Fortune, using his bones for Porter’s family to study Osteology. 

The bones were passed down from generation to generation, possibly the only reason they still exist. 

The moist New England ground would likely have deteriorated the bones if they had remained buried. 

In fact, Fortune’s bones provide rare insight to slavery in the northeast during the 1700’s. 

Jaime Ullinger, Ph.D Associate Professor at Anthropology at Quinnipiac University said, “It is a strange juxtaposition to know the very reason he was used by the surgeon is also what ended up giving us evidence of what his life was like.” 

Fortune’s bones provide information into lifestyle, diet and even the man’s stature. 

A ceremony was held at the State Capital, placing Fortune’s bones in a coffin for a proper grave after 200 years. 

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