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Amos Fortune, Free Man

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3.87  ·  Rating details ·  7,741 ratings  ·  414 reviews
aIt does a man no good to be free until he learns how to live.a These were the words of Amos Fortune, born the son of a king of the At-mun-shi tribe in Africa. When Amos 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 dignity and courage. He dre ...more
Hardcover, 181 pages
Published May 1st 1989 by Perfection Learning (first published 1950)
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3.87  · 
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 ·  7,741 ratings  ·  414 reviews


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Wendy
Sep 23, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Emily
Nov 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"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
...more
Kellyn Roth
Read with mother and younger siblings for school (and a couple years before that, also for school). I didn't love it, but I didn't hate it.

I found some of Amos's ideas a little silly - such as finding his sister, whom he assumed would be the same age as she had been when he last saw her no matter how many years past. That was just annoying. He was also a pushover sometimes. I think perhaps that had a little to do with the way people during the time of this book perceived African-Americans (?), p
...more
Ann
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
...more
Josiah
Apr 10, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an exceptional juvenile biography, told as a historical fiction narrative. Elizabeth Yates is a sympathetic and caring author, and brings these qualities to the sad yet inspiring story of Amos Fortune, an African prince sold into slavery at age fifteen who spent the next forty-five years working for various slave owners, trying to purchase his own freedom and, eventually, the freedom of others. Amos's goal was to one day find his younger sister, who was also sold as a slave, and this st ...more
Marfita
Nov 18, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Aj Sterkel
Mar 01, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: middle-grade
Okay, Amos Fortune. This book is based on the true story of a fifteen-year-old boy who was captured by slave traders in Africa and brought to New England in the early 1700s. Not much is known about the real Amos Fortune, so this book is not a biography. The author made most of it up. We do know that when Amos was in his 60s, he bought his freedom, started a tanning business, and made enough money to buy land for his family and freedom for other slaves. He eventually grew influential enough to be ...more
Kathi
Oct 19, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Judy
Feb 18, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I picked up this book because it won the Newbery medal in 1951. In addition, I was pleased to see that the story is based on the life of a real person. And he was sold at a slave market in Boston. So many books about slavery are set on plantations in the South that it's easy to forget that there were also slaves in the North.

I see that quite a few readers aren't happy with this presentation of an African American who lived in Massachusetts in the late 1700s. I don't see a problem with it. I woul
...more
Juli Anna
I was hoping for more from this book, especially since it is still fairly widely read and assigned as a Newbery. For its time, I'm sure this book was tremendously important and maybe even progressive. But now it seems so domesticated, watered-down, and pandering to a white audience.

Amos as a character is extremely compelling, and it is rare that you read a children's book where the main character is an old man for most of the story. The details about 18th-century African American life and trades
...more
Kristen
Newbery Medal Winner--1951

"But that's what they are, those black people, nothing but children. It's a good thing for them the whites took them over."

Yeah...you've gotta be okay with a little "that's how it was back them" racism to get through this one. Granted, the author almost always goes on to show how amazing Amos is and how he doesn't care, but it's still frustrating to read at times. It's a pretty interesting story of a slave--from his capture from his African tribe all the way to his dea
...more
Josh
Jul 09, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mike
Jan 04, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
It’s just not a good book. Amos is an interesting character, but so little happens, so little detail is shared, and it seems so strange to write a children’s story about slavery that presents slavery as “not so bad.” Such a strange book.

That said, I still want to read it with my class, because I want them to see the whitewashing of history and call it out. I want them to say, “wait a second, it can’t really have been like this for everyone”. Instead of a lesson on what slavery was like, I’ll us
...more
Annelisa
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, co ...more
Davis
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
Lara Lleverino
My first impression was that this story was a bit Pollyannaish putting a happy glossed over spin on what must have been horrifying for young Atmun. But then I remembered the audience this is a book for young people. They do not need to be given all the horrors of the slave trade to know it was wrong and the lesson that Amos taught with his life was one that children need to learn and can learn from this book. That "it does a man no good to be free until he knows how to live, how to walk in step ...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
...more
Ann
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jennifer (JenIsNotaBookSnob)
This is one of those books based on a real person. Some consider this to be a work of nonfiction and others consider that there is so much dialogue used that isn't known for certain that it is more of a fiction based on a true story. However you consider it, it is still an interesting story.

I don't know that Elizabeth Yates was the best person to tell this story. The Amos she creates in her story is was more tolerant of the whites that I think any real Amos could have been under the circumstanc
...more
Michael Fitzgerald
Started on audio and finished in print. The ending wrapped up too quickly, but the first two-thirds was five stars. There are a number of interesting topics addressed, especially the concept of freedom - more than once we see those who are not slaves being "set free." It was also useful to be presented with both the idea of slaves being paid and indentured servitude - slavery appears in different forms.

One thing I could wish for is an author's note detailing some of the historical documents con
...more
Taylor
Feb 11, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I have to start by saying I do not recommend this book.

I’ve been focusing on reading more books by diverse authors and books with POCs as the main character. This came up on our library’s Black History Month list, and though a novel for younger readers, I was interested in learning about someone I didn’t know.

Amos Fortune was an African prince who was taken from his home, brought to America, and sold into slavery. He worked hard to buy his own freedom and later the the freedom of several other
...more
Grace Bittle
Not my favorite book ever, but it was pretty good.
Amos, born Amum or something like that, is taken from his African home. He is taken from his father, mother, and sister, and enslaved Then he is brought to America, and sold. Can he find his long lost sister? Will he be a slave forever?
Stefanie Witman
Apr 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Enjoyed this book. I really enjoy biographical novels, and reading about this time era.
Joy
Oct 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love how Amos Fortune was portrayed as a wise, hard working, intelligent man. I also loved that he was someone who waited for answers from God instead of instantaneously.

This was a fast, quick read novel.
Michelle
Jan 08, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
While this was an inspiring story for kids and the main character was very admirable, overall it presented very idealized and unrealistic pictures of slavery and humanity.
Marie
Jan 22, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kids
This is nicely written and inspirational in its way, and probably was progressive for the 1950s. But I fear it paints a rosy and patronizing picture of slavery. Amos acquires freedom, a family, financial success, and the respect of his community through a combination of hard work, patience, humility, and integrity. His character is admirable, but the story almost seems to reaffirm slavery rather than condemn it. His life in America (in the North) was a picnic compared with many many slaves, and ...more
Ethan
Feb 06, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved the book except the ending, it was so sad. He well you’ll see
Steve Shilstone
Fictionalized life of a real 18th century African sold as a slave in Massachusetts. Lucked out with good masters, if it's even remotely possible to luck out having a master. Nevertheless, he persisted and became a skilled and free tanner.
Julius
Hmph. This book lacked greatly to me the spirit and truth that was in the days in which it is set. The story was alright but the writing... How can I say that the writing was bad when in fact it was not? No, the writing was not bad, but rather lacked the feel of the tone of the story. This book, I must insist, would have been much better if it had been allowed a genre-based and time-period-based form of writing; short of that, a little spirit would have been nice! Many of the characters seemed n ...more
Kelsey Ludemann
Sep 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
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Children's Books: The Medal winner from 1951 - Amos Fortune, Free Man- D&A July 2017 20 27 Jul 21, 2017 08:04AM  
Book Review 1 4 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
“some things are too wonderful even for a child, and freedom's one of them” 2 likes
“He said little about his dream but he nourished it in his heart as the best place for a dream to grow.” 1 likes
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