Amos Fortune, Free Man

by Elizabeth Yates

Start Free Trial

For how many years does Amos live in the Copeland household in Amos Fortune:  Free Man? No thank you, that's it - maybe later.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Amos Fortune lives in the Copeland household for fifteen years, from 1725 to 1740.

After being brought over from Africa, Amos, whose real name is At-mun, is placed on the auction block.  Caleb Copeland, a Quaker who has come to the wharf to sell some cloth, offers the auctioneer thirty pounds for Amos if he will sell him outright, without bidding.  As a Quaker, Copeland is against slavery, yet he buys Amos anyway, knowing that he and his wife need help in the house, and that Amos "would have a Christian home with kindly treatment and an opportunity to cultivate his mind".  Eventually, Caleb plans to give Amos his freedom.

Amos is indeed treated kindly in the Copeland household.  He learns the family trade and becomes a skillful weaver, and slowly over the years adopts the ways of the white man, sleeping in a bed and going to Meeting every First Day with the family.  Mistress Copeland holds a school for her own children and the Negro children who live in nearby homes, and Amos studies along with them, learning "to read and write and cipher".  He reads the Bible often with the Copelands' daughter Roxanna, and grows "from tall lean boyhood to strong and muscular manhood".

Over the years, Caleb Copeland offers Amos his freedom a number of times, but Amos, who thinks of himself as one of the family and looks up to Caleb as a "protector", declines, in the belief that the time is not yet right for him.  As things turn out, Caleb dies before having given Amos his "certificate of freedom", and despite Mistress Copeland's wishes, Amos is sold in order that the family debts be paid.  Amos approaches his own auctioning "with trust and confidence", and he is bought by Mr. Ichabod Richardson, a tanner from Woburn, a "good man, inclined to be stern and with a leaning toward silence...(who) pride(s) himself on knowing how to treat (his slaves)...teach(ing) them a trade...mak(ing( (them) Christians...(and) pay(ing) them - not what he would a white man but what he deemed a just consideration for their service" (Chapter 3 - "Boston 1725-1740, and Chapter 4 - "Woburn 1740-1779).

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team