Skeleton of slave named Fortune buried 215 years after death

The 18th-century slave called Fortune was laid to rest on Thursday, 215 years after he died, at a memorial service in Waterbury attended by hundreds of mourners, more than a dozen clergy and a gospel choir.

Fortune, who was enslaved by a Waterbury doctor, was never buried after his 1798 death because his owner wanted to use Fortune’s bones to teach anatomy. In the 20th century, Fortune’s skeleton was used as an exhibit at the Mattatuck Museum in Waterbury.

A project started in 1996 to discover the history of the museum’s skeleton culminated in Thursday’s burial, which was as dignified as demanded by the occasion, both a man’s funeral and a touchstone in the history of the city’s African American community.

Fortune’s bones lay in state for five hours at the state Capitol in Hartford on Thursday morning, then were taken to St. John’s Episcopal Church on the Green, the Waterbury parish in which Fortune was baptized in 1797…

Steven R. Mullins, president of the Southern Union of Black Episcopalians, said, “Mr. Fortune served as a slave all the years of his earthly life. What happened to Mr. Fortune should not happen to any human being in the world. … This is our opportunity today … to make up for that…”

Mullins savored the irony that Fortune’s remains are buried at Riverside Cemetery, in the same section where many members of Waterbury’s 18th century aristocracy are buried. “Talk about contrasts,” he said. “He is now good enough to rest in the same dirt as they’re in.”

Fools who prate about a post-racial America include those neo-Confederates who would still be upset over the bones of a Black man buried in their cemetery. Sad, but true.

Letter from a Civil War slave to his former master

To My Old Master, Colonel P.H. Anderson, Big Spring, Tennessee

Sir: I got your letter, and was glad to find that you had not forgotten Jourdon, and that you wanted me to come back and live with you again, promising to do better for me than anybody else can. I have often felt uneasy about you. I thought the Yankees would have hung you long before this, for harboring Rebs they found at your house. I suppose they never heard about your going to Colonel Martin’s to kill the Union soldier that was left by his company in their stable.

Although you shot at me twice before I left you, I did not want to hear of your being hurt, and am glad you are still living. It would do me good to go back to the dear old home again, and see Miss Mary and Miss Martha and Allen, Esther, Green, and Lee. Give my love to them all, and tell them I hope we will meet in the better world, if not in this. I would have gone back to see you all when I was working in the Nashville Hospital, but one of the neighbors told me that Henry intended to shoot me if he ever got a chance.

I want to know particularly what the good chance is you propose to give me. I am doing tolerably well here. I get twenty-five dollars a month, with victuals and clothing; have a comfortable home for Mandy, the folks call her Mrs. Anderson, and the children Milly, Jane, and Grundy go to school and are learning well. The teacher says Grundy has a head for a preacher. They go to Sunday school, and Mandy and me attend church regularly. We are kindly treated. Sometimes we overhear others saying, “Them colored people were slaves” down in Tennessee.
The children feel hurt when they hear such remarks; but I tell them it was no disgrace in Tennessee to belong to Colonel Anderson. Many darkeys would have been proud, as I used to be, to call you master.

Now if you will write and say what wages you will give me, I will be better able to decide whether it would be to my advantage to move back again.

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Brazil says reforms for international institutions overdue


Minister Amorim and President Lula
Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

Emerging power Brazil has downplayed a cooling of its relations with the United States following a disagreement on diplomacy toward Iran, but said the incident suggested reform of global institutions would be tough.

Foreign Minister Celso Amorim said opposition from big powers to a joint Brazilian-Turkish mediation effort on the Iranian nuclear dispute suggested they would resist changes to the global order, such as reform of the U.N. Security Council.

Speaking to reporters at a conference in Geneva of the transatlantic International Institute for Strategic Studies think tank, Amorim said the United States and Brazil had disagreed only on tactics on Iran, not on fundamental strategy.

“I don’t see any problem between President Lula and President Obama…”We have to be mature people and we have to understand that people, especially mature people who agree with the same objectives, … can disagree on tactics.”

Brazilian officials have complained in private that their good-faith efforts to revive a stalled nuclear fuel swap agreement in May were swiftly brushed aside with little regard for Brazil’s status as an emerging power…

But in a debate on the growing global role of emerging powers such as Brazil, the minister told delegates that the dispute “shows how resistant major powers will be to changes (in the power balance in global institutions), it shows how difficult it will be to change the Security Council.”

“But reform will come to the Council one day, one way or another…”

The so-called BRIC countries of Brazil, India, Russia and China, want more representation in the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Jim Steinberg told the conference Washington welcomed the growing role of the BRICs and other powers such as Turkey and South Africa, but that constant dialogue with Washington was needed to overcome differences.

“We do not see their rise as an inherent threat to our interests, but we recognize that cooperation will not come automatically and that we will inevitably face issues on which our interests diverge,” he said.

All these new folks should ask Washington for permission before they try to enter the Big House on the Hill. Says the “important” folks in the Big House.

I say – overdue. But, I ain’t important.

Allied prisoners toiled in Prime Minister’s family coal mine


Roh Won-baek – one of 10,000 Koreans forced into labour by Aso Mining
Daylife/Reuters Pictures

The Japanese government has acknowledged for the first time that Allied prisoners during World War II were made to work at a coal mine owned by the family of Prime Minister Taro Aso, contradicting longstanding denials by the Japanese leader.

The admission came after the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, under prodding from an opposition lawmaker, released documents showing that 300 British, Dutch and Australian prisoners of war worked at a mine owned by Aso Mining during the last four months of World War II in western Japan.

At a parliamentary session, officials of the health and foreign ministries acknowledged the validity of the documents, which, totaling some 43 pages, were retrieved from the basement of the Health Ministry building…

One of Japan’s wealthiest politicians, Aso has long denied what historians and survivors of his family’s coal mine have consistently asserted: that the mine, like many others during the war, had used prisoners of war as well as forced laborers from Asia. In the 1970s, Aso served as president of the company, which is now called the Aso Group and is run by his family.

Japan has long used the absence of official Japanese government documents to deny wartime crimes, rejecting documents from other countries or accounts of survivors.

Contradicting the stance of other Axis partners like Germany, Japan maintains a steadfast denial of campaigns of torture and genocide throughout the Pacific Rim during WW2. These politicians – like Joseph Goebbels – must still believe that if you tell the same lie long enough and loud enough, the rest of the world will eventually come to accept it as truth.

That much evil and greed is worth remembering.