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Ceremony Held for 18th Century Connecticut Slave

About 60 people gathered at the Capitol today to pay respects to an 18th-century Connecticut slave. This morning, a ceremony was held as the remains of the slave known as Mr. Fortune lied in state.

Fortune was owned by a doctor whose medical practice was in Waterbury. After he died, the doctor prepared the body and used Fortune's skeleton as a teaching tool. Years later, the bones were donated to the Mattatuck Museum and put on display. The skeleton was called “Larry” and hung in the museum for many years.

After the display was removed in the 1970s, researchers determined that remains were, in fact, those of the slave, Fortune.

Al Walton, a a member of the Mattatuck’s African American History Project Committee, says Fortune’s story reveals a part of Connecticut history that few people know anything about. "It's uncovered the history of slavery in Connecticut, so to speak," Walton said. "Because a lot of people, educated people, think of slavery more often than not as a southern institution that happened in the South. And when the Fortune story was being told, people came to realize, oh...we had slavery here in Connecticut?"

A state police escort accompanied the remains to Waterbury this afternoon where Fortune will finally receive a proper burial at Riverside Cemetery, which has provided a plot.

Diane Orson is a special correspondent with Connecticut Public. She is a longtime reporter and contributor to National Public Radio. Her stories have been heard on Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Weekend Edition and Here And Now. Diane spent seven years as CT Public Radio's local host for Morning Edition.

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