Amos Fortune, Free Man Background

Amos Fortune, Free Man Background

Published in 1950, Elizabeth Yates's Amos Fortune, Free Man is a biographical novel which follows the story of an African prince sold into slavery who later buys his freedom and starts a business in Jaffrey, New Hampshire. The book has been translated into several languages and won multiple awards, including the 1951 Newbery Medal for children's literature. Like many of Yates's other books, Amos Fortune, Free Man was illustrated by British artist Nora Unwin.

Amos Fortune, Free Man is based on the true story of Amos Fortune (1710-1801), an African man sold into slavery who purchased his freedom at the age of 60. Fortune started a tanning business in Jaffrey, New Hampshire. According to archived documents, Fortune achieved a considerable degree of status and financial success. He was an active member of the local church community and served as a mentor to two apprentices.

Yates lived part of her life in Peterborough, New Hampshire, bordering the town of Jaffrey, and was inspired to write the novel by a visit to Amos Fortune's grave. Despite critical acclaim, the novel also received criticism for its depictions of race and slavery, which—like Yates's depiction of Amos Fortune himself—were considered by some to be idealized and to perpetuate ideas of white supremacy.

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