Amos Fortune, Free Man

ff1181b0c8a0bc2b63379110.LNEWBERY MEDAL WINNER – 1951

Amos Fortune, Free Man

Elizabeth Yates

illustrated by Nora S. Unwin

Age: 9 +

Interests: history, American history, biography, slavery, racism, religion

E.P. Dutton: 1950

181 pages, 10 chapters

Also by this author: Mountain Born; Wind of Spring; Brave Interval; Is There a Doctor in the Barn: A Day in the Life of Forrest F. Tenney, Veterinarian; With Pipe, Paddle and Song: A Story of the French-Canadian Voyageurs circa 1750

This novel of historical fiction tells the true story of Amos Fortune, born in Africa the son of a tribal king and captured at the age of fifteen by American slave traders. After a terrible journey he was sold to a kind Quaker in Boston in 1725 and learned to read and write by way of the Bible. During this time his character as a gentle, peaceful, hardworking man was forged. His next master was also fair and kind, and trained him well as a tanner. After many years, at the age of 60, he earned his freedom and his life as a free man finally began. A talented tanner, Amos ran his own successful business and spent his hard-earned money on buying the freedom of other slaves. After two wives died young due to their lives of hard labour, Amos purchased and freed a third bride Violet and her four-year-old daughter. They moved to a new town and he began again to build his business and save up to buy land and build a home. By the time Amos died at the ripe old age of 91 he was one of the most respected men in town, and was able to bequeath a generous amount to both the church and the school.

Amos Fortune is a truly admirable character; he seems to have been a model citizen and good man, and the people he encounters in America are for the most part kind and fair in their treatment of him. He prevails against injustice with patience, nonviolence, and faith in God. The horrific treatment he receives in the beginning at the hands of the slave traders is balanced by the kindness of his later masters.

This is a true story, though the scarcity of information about Amos’s early years leaves the author a lot of room for speculation and invention. (Original documents are included verbatim, which could spark a discussion about historical research and how writers must fill in the gaps in novels like this.) The progress of this man’s life is slow and steady, which makes for a slow and unexciting read, but his attitude, religious faith and good works will be inspirational for many.

(this title available at


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All writings posted here are © Kim Thompson, unless otherwise indicated. For all artwork on this site, copyright is retained by the artist.
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