2011-2012 Fortune's Bones

I was obsessed with Fortune’s Bones for a good five years. I couldn’t believe the story. I wanted to know why it touched me and what I needed to do because I have been touched in this way.

– Dr. Ysaye M. Barnwell

From September 2011 to April 2012, the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center presented a series of events inspired by the compelling story of Fortune.

Who Was Fortune?

Fortune was an enslaved African whose life did not end when he died in 1798.

In life, Fortune served a doctor in post-Colonial Waterbury, Connecticut. After death, he was dissected by the Connecticut physician who owned him. His bones were preserved and studied and, later, displayed as an anatomical specimen at the Mattatuck Museum, a skeleton known only as “Larry.”

The questions raised by Fortune’s story go beyond a single community or historical era. Who speaks for Fortune? Who has the right to his remains? And what can we learn from his life and its aftermath?

As a community, we come together for multiple events to consider these questions, to sing, to talk, to listen, to learn — and ultimately to celebrate.

Event Performances
Who Was Fortune?
  • Mon, Sep 19, 2011 . 7:30PM
Dr. Ysaye Barnwell Community Sing
  • Tue, Sep 20, 2011 . 5:30PM
A Question of History and Humanity: Who Speaks for Fortune?
  • Mon, Oct 10, 2011 . 7:30PM
The Continuum: From Fortune to Henrietta Lacks and Beyond
  • Mon, Feb 6, 2012 . 7:30PM
  • Tue, Feb 7, 2012 . 7:30PM
Traces of the Trade: A Story from the Deep North
  • Mon, Feb 20, 2012 . 7:00PM
Slavery and the University of Maryland
  • Fri, Feb 24, 2012 . 7:00PM
Fortune's Bones: The Manumission Requiem
  • Sat, Feb 25, 2012 . 8:00PM
  • Sun, Feb 26, 2012 . 3:00PM
What the Lyrics of Spirituals Have Told Us, Then and Now
  • Tue, Mar 6, 2012 . 5:30PM
McIntosh County Shouters
  • Tue, Mar 6, 2012 . 8:00PM
Fortune's Bones Final Event
  • Sun, Apr 15, 2012 . 3:00PM