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Amos Fortune, Free Man (Newbery Library,…
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Amos Fortune, Free Man (Newbery Library, Puffin) (original 1950; edition 1989)

by Elizabeth Yates (Author)

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The life of the eighteenth-century African prince who, after being captured by slave traders, was brought to Massachusetts where he was a slave until he was able to buy his freedom at the age of sixty.
Member:RawhideYouth
Title:Amos Fortune, Free Man (Newbery Library, Puffin)
Authors:Elizabeth Yates (Author)
Info:Puffin Books (1989), Edition: Illustrated, 192 pages
Collections:Your library
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Amos Fortune, Free Man by Elizabeth Yates (1950)

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» See also 35 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 23 (next | show all)
Follow a young African boy through this capture, imprisonment, sold into slavery, earning freedom, and becoming a successful model citizen. ( )
  MaryRachelSmith | Nov 24, 2021 |
Excellent! I read it aloud and all my children loved it. The development of the main character was handled beautifully. ( )
  ColourfulThreads | Feb 18, 2021 |
NA
  pszolovits | Feb 3, 2021 |
Newbery Medal 1951. Biography of a son of a king who was stolen and sold into slavery before the revolutionary war. Shows how racial differences have always been a problem in the US, even when people were free and contributing to the community. ( )
  LindaLeeJacobs | Feb 15, 2020 |
This book won the Newbery Medal in 1951. Mistakenly classified as nonfiction, it is really a biographical novel or, more accurately, historical fiction. Amos Fortune (c. 1710 - 1801) was a real person, but very little is known of his life.

Indeed, in an interview in The Writer in March 1998, author Elizabeth Yates said she was inspired "when I was standing by the stone that marked the grave of Amos Fortune in the old cemetery in Jaffrey, New Hampshire. Reading the eloquent though brief words about a man whose life spanned from Africa in 1715 to America in 1801, I wanted to know more, to find the story within those lines."

About all that was available was Fortune's homestead (now private property) and some documents at the Jaffrey Public Library, such as his will (written and signed in 1801), some receipts (for loans, medical services, and purchases, including those that bought the freedom of two wives), two letters of apprenticeship of young men to Amos the tanner, and an unsigned letter of manumission for Amos, written by Ichabod Richardson in 1763. Yates adds another owner and another wife for Amos, as well as a king father and lame sister in Africa, but there is no evidence for any of these.

This book wasn't thrilling, but it wasn't boring either. It provided insights into life in colonial New England. Descriptions of the processes of bark tanning and the vendue of the poor were particularly interesting - the latter was something I'd never heard of before. The audiobook narrator Ray Childs' bass was perfect for Amos Fortune, but not so good for the female voices.

This book has received a lot of criticism, particularly since the early 1970s, for being racist and/or white-supremacist, primarily because Amos is so accepting of his situation. You can read more about this in my post on the book at the Newbery Project. I agree with critics who feel that books with other viewpoints about slavery should be presented along with this book. Suggestions include Paula Fox's The Slave Dancer, (a Newbery winner in 1974), The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, Christopher Paul Curtis' Elijah of Buxton (a Newbery Honor Book in 2008), and Julius Lester's To Be A Slave (a Newbery Honor Book in 1969).

In the same 1998 interview mentioned above, Yates tells of a question from a group of fourth-graders:

"'Have you ever regretted anything you've written?' came the next question. Again, I sent my mind back over the years and their books. The answer was at hand, and it was No, for I have had a rule with myself that nothing ever leaves my desk unless it is the best I can

The idea that took hold of me as I stood by that stone in the old churchyard and that became the book Amos Fortune, Free Man was written in 1949 and published a year later. All the pertinent, reliable material that I could find went into the book and became the story. It could not be a biography but an account of a man's life, with facts assured and some imaginative forays based on the temper of the times. The research, the writing, was done long before the Civil Rights upheavals of the 60's. I might today write a very different story, but that was then."

It would be quite interesting to read a different version of Amos Fortune's story, one that might address some of the concerns of the critics.

© Amanda Pape - 2010 ( )
  rdg301library | May 24, 2015 |
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» Add other authors (2 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Elizabeth Yatesprimary authorall editionscalculated
Childs, RayNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Unwin, Nora SpicerIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The life of the eighteenth-century African prince who, after being captured by slave traders, was brought to Massachusetts where he was a slave until he was able to buy his freedom at the age of sixty.

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Captured by slavers while still a boy, At-Mun, son of a chief, was transported from his native African village across the Atlantic to be sold at auction in pre-revolutionary Boston.

Available online at The Internet Archive:
https://archive.org/search.php?query=t...
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