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Amos Fortune, Free Man

3.85  ·  Rating Details  ·  5,866 Ratings  ·  283 Reviews
A Newbery Medal Winner

When Amos Fortune was only fifteen years old, he was captured by slave traders and brought to Massachusetts, where he was sold at auction. Although his freedom had been taken, Amos never lost his dinity and courage. For 45 years, Amos worked as a slave and dreamed of freedom. And, at age 60, he finally began to see those dreams come true.

"The moving s
Paperback, 192 pages
Published May 1st 1989 by Puffin Books (first published 1950)
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The Giver by Lois LowryA Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'EngleHoles by Louis SacharNumber the Stars by Lois LowryBridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
Newbery Medal Winner Books
72nd out of 95 books — 298 voters
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Biographies for Kids
13th out of 68 books — 26 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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May 03, 2014 Wendy rated it liked it
Shelves: newbery
I did my best to rate this what I might have rated it as a child, or maybe if I'd read it back when it was written.

As a book, I would probably rate it highly in a list of similar children's biographies for interest and readability.

Amos Fortune had a very interesting life, and a new biography of him would be great.

But this book is almost unreadably racist and patronizing. If it weren't for the award, it would certainly have been weeded from school and public libraries long ago. I don't know wha
Jul 09, 2010 Josh rated it really liked it
The thing that struck me most about this book is that Amos is not tortured or horribly hurt in any way by being a slave. He isn’t raped or beaten or anything else. I think that this is what makes the book interesting. It does not matter that you are mistreated and hurt by being a slave. That is not really the point. That’s not what is horrible about racism. Racism is people not paying you for your work even though it is excellent. Racism is people not letting you sit in a pew at church. Racism i ...more
Nov 28, 2012 Ann rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: newbery, historical
I had grave misgivings before I began reading this book. It won the Newbery Award, yes, but it won in 1951, and it's a book about a black man written by a white woman. In 1950. That's enough to give me a bit of a pause entering into the reading experience.

On the whole, the book was not as racially insensitive as I thought it would be. That doesn't mean that it's a shining example of careful research and subtle characterization, just that it's not as bad as it could have been.

It's interesting to
Nov 18, 2011 Marfita rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: no one
Shelves: children-s
There is precious little information about the man who became Amos Fortune and I would not send anyone to this book trying to find any. As a novel, however, it is very affecting. I'm sure research was done into the slave trade to get background information, but if Fortune left no written record himself of his youth, then that part of the narrative is so much marsh gas. If he had been just a villager, rather than a "king's son," where would his nobility have come from? He has to fall far. It isn' ...more
Apr 10, 2009 Josiah rated it really liked it
This truly is an exceptional juvenile biography, told in the form of an historical fiction narrative. Elizabeth Yates is one of the most sympathetic and caring authors that I have ever read, and she brings this benevolent approach to the sad but inspiring story of the heroic true figure Amos Fortune, an African prince who was sold into slavery at the age of fifteen and spent the next forty-five years working hard for various slave owners, trying to buy his own freedom and, eventually, the freed ...more
Jan 12, 2014 D.C. rated it it was ok
The story itself is really not that bad, but the fact that the author made up the majority of the story based upon the few facts available on Amos Fortune's life sort of disturbs me. The details of slavery and prejudice are very glossed over and are not realistic at all. Amos is depicted as being happy all the time, and although I don't doubt that he was a very upbeat person, not one time in this book is he sad (although he gets angry at one occasion). I just didn't feel like I got a very good t ...more
Oct 19, 2015 Kathi rated it really liked it
Shelves: newbery
Although I greatly admired Amos Fortune in Elizabeth Yates’s 1951 biographical novel, it was his love for a mountain in his later years with which I connected the most.

A former African prince, At-mun was abducted by slave traders in 1710, after they destroyed his village and murdered his father. He endured great suffering during his captivity and journey to Boston, but knowing that he was of royal lineage, he endured his ordeal stoically, wanting to give hope to those captured with him. He kept
Dec 06, 2015 Emily rated it it was amazing
"Hate could do that to a man, Amos thought, consume him and leave him smoldering. But he was a free man, and free at a great cost, and he would not put himself in bondage again."

Here is a story not to be missed, of a young teenage boy in Africa, son of a chief and tribal leader, who is kidnapped by slavers and brought to America. Educated by Quakers and offered his freedom, Amos possesses both an extraordinary spirit as well as a penchant for learning his trade well. His tenderness for his young
Karen Upper
Aug 21, 2016 Karen Upper rated it it was amazing
Amos Fortune by Yates is a beautifully told story of personal choices -- of perseverance and compassion -- during a time where bitterness, distrust and hate were more common place in society.
Captured as a fifteen year old from his village in Africa, 'he is then transported and sold as a slave in New England. Based upon the life of the real historical Amos Fortune (1710-1801), Ms.Yates' Amos exhibits a patience and good will that distinguishes him from many of his fellow community members whether
May 27, 2014 Guatemala rated it it was amazing
Loved the book. Learned a lot. Eye opening.

I think that part of reading a historic book, fiction or non fiction, is to understand concepts and believes of that time, whether simple or complex, wide spread or not. Not because they were right or wrong, or that practices and believes, were acceptable or not then nor in our post modern society, but because they existed and were real, if not for all people, for many or some.

When I read any book I want or a book that my children are going to read I ha
Kelsey Ludemann
Sep 18, 2012 Kelsey Ludemann rated it it was amazing
Shelves: libm-205
I read this book in 8th grade, and I decided to read this book for my Newbery Awards assignment because of the many years between the two readings. I am glad I did. I didn't remember the plot as well as I thought I would so a lot of it felt new to me. Elizabeth Yates is a wonderful writer and there are some very reflect-worthy quotes in this book:

"It puzzled Amos that the white people put so much stress on Sunday. Yet it seemed somehow similar to the stress they put on the color of a man's skin
I have/had fond memories of this book, which I first encountered in middle school. I found it in one of the many book bins in one of my classrooms. I kept thinking about it through the years, and was glad when I was able to get a copy later. However, after rereading the book in college, I find that I have some serious issues with it, much of which has been mentioned in earlier reviews. Handled the proper way, the story of Amos Fortune, a figure who no doubt had a fascinating and complex life, c ...more
Apr 16, 2014 Chris rated it really liked it
Good book for kids - read it to my daughter. It is more of a fictionalized biography because so little is known of Fortune's early life. And the author does present it from their 1950's perspective (taming & Christianizing the noble savage and Fortune seems to mostly come in contact with kindhearted white people and slavery is not depicted nearly as bad as it was), but on the whole I think it is a good way for kids to learn more about slavery and living a dignified life, even when you have i ...more
The Newberry Award winning Amos Fortune Free Man is the story of At-mun the 15 year old son of a tribal king in Africa who is taken by slave traders and carried to America. He is sold to a Quaker who teaches him to be a tanner. Through hard work he gains his freedom. During his entire lifetime, Amos never becomes angry, always serves God and lives to help others. Very interesting story of a black man who had every right to be angry and despairing, but instead chose to be loving and positive. Wel ...more
Linda Lipko
Born the son of the King of an African tribe, when he was 15 he was herded up with other village members, shackled and held as cargo in the ship until reaching New England whereupon he was sold on the slavery block.

This is his story from the time he arrived on colonial soil through the years he was a slave who eventually was freed, married and owned property.

This is a story of hope and courage. This is a story of the tragedy of slavery and the bravery of those who bore the burden.

A 1951 Newbery
Jul 24, 2015 Elaine rated it really liked it
This biographical novel of an African prince who was kidnapped, sold into slavery, and eventually gained his freedom was really inspiring. He's someone you'd look up to and admire for his tenacity and compassion, despite all he went through. He was a man who worked long and hard, making a home for him and his wife and excelling in his profession after 40+ years of slavery! Thankfully, he ended up in families that treated him well as a slave. I think that's one of the nice things about this biogr ...more
Rachel Anne  Boody
Feb 10, 2015 Rachel Anne Boody rated it liked it
Shelves: 11-biographies
An amazing story of how a man buys his own freedom after slavery and respecting his white masters. He goes on to free many other people and settles down in a town called Jaffrey as a tanner with his wife and adopted daughter. His life and service to others was amazing and inspiring to read about during this incredible story of hope, loss, and love. One of my favorite passages was when he was telling Louis' children about Africa and singing songs with them as well. Also one of my favorite parts o ...more
Carl Nelson
May 14, 2014 Carl Nelson rated it liked it
Shelves: newbery-winners
1951 Newbery Medal recipient.

Thought-provoking, interesting fictionalized story of a man captured in Africa and taken to America as a slave who is able to buy his freedom. There is little record of the real Amos Fortune; the story that Yates gives him is dramatic and moving. While I suspect she's used strong poetic license, she uses it well.

The issue that I had with this book is that it shows a paternalistic racism of the 1950s much more than the true nature of the slaves' experiences. For examp
Benji Martin
Jun 22, 2014 Benji Martin rated it it was ok
Let me start out by saying that I think the children on the 1950s must have been very confused about slavery. First they get the movie The Song of the South which came out in 1946. They see Uncle Remus whistling with the bluebirds, singing songs and telling stories all the time. Seems like a pretty good life. Then in 1950 Amos Fortune comes out. It’s the story of an African prince who was kidnapped by slavers, taken across the ocean and sold into a Quaker community. He never had a cruel master, ...more
Nov 04, 2014 Kari rated it liked it
Good story, but I quickly grew tired of the writing style. Lots of slow parts that made the story seem duller than it should have been.
Autumn T
Mar 10, 2016 Autumn T rated it really liked it
Shelves: readalouds
My Review:

I think the book AMOS FORTUNE was a great, inspiring book, it talked about how slaves where treated in the northern colonies of America. It also talked a little bit about the slave trade and showed how mean slavery is no matter where you go.

Lit Discussion Questions:

1. Yes. I knew because we have read other books about freed slaves. There were freed slaves in the Southern colonies, as well, but not as many.

2. Amos was a very good tanner. A tanner is someone who makes leather out of an
Aug 20, 2015 AmyNikita rated it liked it
Shelves: read-for-school
I've read a lot of books about slavery victims, but this is definitely the best written. However, I did think it moved too fast. If the author had made it into a longer tale, I would probably have felt more for the characters and the story would have affected me more. As it was, it just skimmed over my emotions.
Oct 21, 2015 Catherine rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Angela Coan
Jun 05, 2016 Angela Coan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
After just finishing Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry within days of finishing this book, I was surprised by the difference in tone and themes betweens the two. Amos Fortune, Free Man wasn't filled with graphic retellings of the horrible fates of slaves, but it was straightforward and I thought it contained greater substance and character than other books that reveal "how it was." It is a clear theme of the book that slavery is an awful thing to experience, and that every person should experience fr ...more
I'm conflicted about this one. As juvenile biographies go, it is well written and a fairly compelling story. But that's part of the problem. My understanding is that this book is much more a work of fiction than it is a biography. Furthermore, while Amos Fortune was a fascinating and inspiring man, and I'm happy to have learned more about him, a biography of a black slave written by a white woman in 1950 seems (and, in fact, is) inherently problematic. All things considered, it's not actually al ...more
Feb 16, 2015 A.B. rated it it was ok
I remembered this book as a favorite of my childhood, so I recently re-read it and found it… sigh… sorely disappointing. When it won the Newbery in 1951, perhaps it was seen as revolutionary for that time because the protagonist is this awesome African-American guy—honorable, decent, loving, trustworthy, hard-working, etc. But the story is so heavy-handed, and the view of slavery and African-Americans so… white… that I cringed a lot while reading. These days, I’m glad we’ve got the #WeNeedDivers ...more
Jul 11, 2016 LuAnn rated it really liked it
It's interesting to contrast this historical fiction biography with The Kidnapped Prince: The Life of Olaudah Equiano, an adaptation of Equiano's autobiography by Ann Cameron. Both men were captured as children in Africa and brought to the US; and both, through industry, diligence and patience, eventually bought their freedom. Equiano traveled more and suffered much more injustice and cruelty, yet both generally approached the injustice with equanimity and faith, an incredible amount in Amos' ca ...more
Scott Hayden
Amos Fortune is my hero. Quiet perseverence, diligent, charitable - even when it costs him. But isn't that the only kind of love there is?
Dec 30, 2013 Debbie added it
64 1951: Amos Fortune, Free Man by Elizabeth Yates (Dutton)

historical fiction

This story tells of the life of Amos Fortune. Amos was originally named At-mun and was born the son of a king in Africa. He was taken by slave traders to New England. There, he was fortunate to have a kind owner and he eventually bought his own freedom. He later bought the freedom of two wives who proceeded him in death and a third wife and her daughter. He became a kind and prosperous tanner.

"Blossoms of brilliant hu
Olivia Kirkham
Feb 18, 2014 Olivia Kirkham rated it really liked it
Shelves: february
A story of a man of true morals. This book is amazing because it is a true story of a man who was a man of God no matter what happened to him. He was a prince in Africa and then was brought into slavery by Americans. It is heart breaking what this man went through but it is extraordinary how he stayed a happy and grateful man through all of it. He was fortunate enough to be put in homes that loved and cared for him. That's why his name came to be Amos Fortune. I would have everyone read this sto ...more
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Book Review 1 3 Apr 03, 2015 12:16AM  
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Elizabeth Yates, author of over forty books for children, was born in New York State on December 6th, 1905. Determined to be an author, she moved to New York City to launch her career. She worked a variety of jobs including reviewing book, writing short stories, and doing research. She moved to England with her husband and wrote her first book, High Holiday, based on her travels in Switzerland wit ...more
More about Elizabeth Yates...

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“some things are too wonderful even for a child, and freedom's one of them” 1 likes
“Once it was his hard-earned money that had been used to buy her freedom. How could she speak against his doing something with what was his for another in need?” 1 likes
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