Form and Content

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

In Amos Fortune, Free Man, Elizabeth Yates tells the life story of Amos Fortune, who was taken from Africa as a slave to New England, where he eventually gained his freedom. Fortune was not a renowned personage in American history; Yates relates the life of a common man who, through personal dignity and perseverance, affected the lives of those around him. In the acknowledgments, at the front of the book, Yates mentions the search for materials on Fortune’s life and the location of the documents in the East Jaffrey Library. She provides copies of certain documents in the text that help to anchor this biography in time and place, but much of the story had to be fictionalized.

The book is divided into ten chronologically organized chapters, with each chapter corresponding to major changes in Fortune’s life. Nora S. Unwin provides small pen-and-ink drawings placed at the beginning of each chapter. The first chapter de-scribes the capture by slavers of fifteen-year-old Prince At-mun from his native village of At-mun-shi on the African Gold Coast in the year 1725. The second chapter contains an account of the voyage to Boston, the sale of At-mun to the Quaker Caleb Copeland, and the designation of the name “Amos.” Purchased in Boston by a Quaker, Amos was fortunate among slaves in the treatment that he received. He was allowed to attend Celia Copeland’s kitchen school, and he learned to read and write. Because he was treated so well, his...

(The entire section is 428 words.)


(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Amos Fortune's story begins in 1725 in the At-mun-shi village, near the Gold Coast of equatorial Africa, during the spring ritual celebrating...

(The entire section is 135 words.)

Literary Qualities

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Yates's biographical novel is based on a framework of factual information about Amos Fortune and eighteenth-century New England that she...

(The entire section is 326 words.)

Social Sensitivity

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

In addition to addressing the horrible injustices of slavery, Yates also portrays Amos encountering racism after he is freed. Although Amos...

(The entire section is 211 words.)

Topics for Discussion

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

1. Why do At-mun and the At-mun-shi fail to fight or attempt to escape while the slaves transport them to the African coast? What might have...

(The entire section is 187 words.)

Ideas for Reports and Papers

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

1. Read another biography of a slave, such as Ann Perry's Harriet Tubman. How does this biographer's approach differ from Yates's? How...

(The entire section is 187 words.)

Related Titles / Adaptations

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Yates has written several carefully researched biographical novels of individuals who faced extreme difficulties with unusual courage and...

(The entire section is 128 words.)

For Further Reference

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Commire, Anne, ed. Something about the Author. Vol. 4. Detroit: Gale Research, 1973. Brief biographical sketch, list of works,...

(The entire section is 110 words.)