A painting of what Fortune may have looked like at the
Mattatuck Museum, Watrbury Conneticut.
Dr. Marilyn Nelson, Poet
Dr. Ysaye M. Barnwell
Curator / Composer
WHO WAS FORTUNE?
Fortune was an African man enslaved in Waterbury, CT in the late 18th century. Fortune was probably born in the 1740s but the exact date and place of his birth are unknown. According to the 1790 federal census, Fortune, his wife and 4 children (Africa b.1772, Jacob b.1786, Mira b.1789, and Roxa b.1791) were listed as the legal property of Dr. Preserved Porter, a renowned bone surgeon. Upon Fortune’s death in 1798, Dr. Porter dissected the body, prepared, and preserved the skeleton so that it’s anatomy could be studied, and used for teaching purposes. Fortune’s wife and children remained the property of the Porter family but by 1800 only Dinah and a young man named Luke were still in the Porter household. Fortune’s bones remained in the doctor’s family for four generations, until given to the Mattatuck Museum mattatuckmuseum.org/ in 1930. In recent years, examinations of Fortune’s bones, have provided evidence which has helped to document the circumstances of his life and times. On September 12, 2013 Fortune was funeralized at St. John’s Eissopal Church where he had been baptized 1797. He is buried in the Riverside Cemetery in Waterbury, CT.
The website below provides extensive information about Fortune, Waterbury, CT in the 18th century, slavery in Waterbury, the relationship between religion and slavery, Waterbury’s African American community, it’s slave owners. In addition, specific resources are provided for teachers and students.
The Fortune's Bones Story – http://www.fortunestory.org
WHAT IS THE FORTUNE’S BONES PROJECT®?
The Fortune’s Bones Project® is a two part experience beginning with panel discussions, lectures, films and artitic activities that engage the community in the history of slavery and the medical, legal, cultural issues presented by the Fortune’s Bones story, and culminating in a performance(s) of the cantata FORTUNE’S BONES: THE MANUMISSION REQUIEM with text by Dr. Marilyn Nelson and music by Dr. Ysaye M. Barnwell. In the past, the project has taken a year of planning, fundraising and organization followed by 6-8 months of implementation prior to the performance of the Cantata.
The 40 minute Cantata -FORTUNE’S BONES: THE MANUMISSION REQUIEM, performed by a full orchestra, a choir of 150+ voices, eight soloists and an African Drum ensemble may be programmed and presented as a separate concert piece. The following persons (all African American) are principle performers in the piece: Marilyn Nelson (Poet, narrator), Stephen Salters (Baritone, Fortune), Shannon Finney (Contralto, Dinah), Stanley Nelson (Conductor). Additional soloists include principal Baritone-(The Doctor) and supporting soloists: 1-Baritone, 2-Tenors, 3-Sopranos will be chosen from the local community.
WHAT ARE THE GOALS OF THE PROJECT?
The goals of the Fortune’s Bones Project® are (1) to introduce both academic and non-academic communities to the person and legacy of FORTUNE - his life, death and beyond; (2) to engage communities in lectures, panel discussions, films, artistic presentations, reading, and stimulating dialog which explores issues of slavery, including slavery north vs. slavery south; legal, cultural and spiritual issues in medical eduction, medical ethics, medical treatment and research; the medical mis-uses of Black persons and Black bodies; and the cultural, religious and artistic traditions related to death, dying and burial practices in various cultures and communities. Communities are encouraged to explore subjects with particular relevence to them. The project will culminate in the performance of FORTUNE’S BONES: THE MANUMISSION REQUIEM, a cantata for full orchestra, a choir of 150+ voices, 8 soloists and an African drum ensemble; text by Dr. Marilyn Nelson and music by Dr. Ysaye M. Barnwell.
CONTACT DR. BARNWELL
MAIL: FORTUNE’S BONES PROJECT - P. O. BOX 32164 WASHINGTON, DC 20007