Hidden History: Personal Look at Life As a Slave in America


In our ‘hidden history’ report, we have lessons from the grave.

A man’s life and death are providing a very personal look at life as a slave in America.

In Waterbury Connecticut, a peculiar headstone took 215 years for a proper burial of a man named Fortune. 

In the two centuries, his bones have been on an unbelievable journey.

Fortune, 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 New England ground would likely have deteriorated the bones if they had remained buried. 

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

“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,” Ph.D. Associate Professor at Anthropology at Quinnipiac University, Jaime Ullinger, said.

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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