Nightly News   |  September 12, 2013

Slave who died in 1798 gets funeral

The remains of the man known as Mr. Fortune will lie in state in Hartford, Conn. NBC’s Rehema Ellis reports.

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>>> finally tonight it took over two centuries but the final chapter was written today for a man long forgotten. he was a slave who worked and died in connecticut . today he was finally shown the dignity he never experienced in life. his story tonight from nbc's rehema ellis.

>> reporter: lying in state at the capitol rotunda in hartford, connecticut , one of the state's highest honors offered to few but today granted to a slave named fortune whose story is part of america's painful past.

>> he is finally getting the respect that he so well deserved.

>> reporter: in the 1700s fortune was a slave and along with his wife and four children the legal property of dr. preserved porter. he worked on the porter's waterbury farm until his death in 1798 . an inventory of dr. porter's estate in the early 1800s includes items including a sleigh, ladder, skeleton -- presumed to be fortune 's -- valued at $15 and his living widow valued at $10. dr. porter was a physician. many descendants followed in his footsteps. with other local doctors actually used fortune 's bones to study human anatomy . in death as in life, without his consent. in the 1900s they donated fortune 's remains to the museum.

>> he's like the legacy that slaves were as human as anyone else.

>> reporter: anthropologists and artists created images of what he may have looked like in life. today his funeral at st. john's episcopal search which is where, according to records, fortune was baptized more than two centuries ago. hundreds gathered to pay their respects.

>> the way you recall brcelebrate a life.

>> it's an amazing thing to me. i'm so happy to be a part of it.

>> reporter: more than 200 years after his death and a life of servitude and hardship, a slave named fortune was finally buried with dignity. rehema ellis, nbc news, waterbury, connecticut .