Fortune (American slave)



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 (Africa, Jacob, Mira, and Roxa) were the property of Dr. Preserved Porter, a physician based in
Waterbury, Connecticut Waterbury is a city in the U.S. state of Connecticut on the Naugatuck River, southwest of Hartford and northeast of New York City. Waterbury is the second-largest city in New Haven County, Connecticut. According to the 2020 US Census, in ...
. Fortune owned the house he and his family lived in that was just outside of the town center on the Porter property.

Fortune's Remains

Fortune drowned in an accident in the
Naugatuck River The Naugatuck River is a U.S. Geological Survey. National Hydrography Dataset high-resolution flowline dataThe National Map, accessed April 1, 2011 river in the U.S. state of Connecticut. Its waters carve out the Naugatuck River Valley in the w ...
in 1798, and Dr. Porter dissected his body and preserved his skeleton for anatomic study. The doctor then opened a “School for Anatomy,” which used Fortune's bone as the source of study. The anatomically inscribed skeleton was found in 1910 in a boarded up closet of the Porter house. 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. 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 then created a special exhibit in honor of Fortune that detailed the lives of African-American slaves in the early part of the 19th century.