Amos Fortune, Free Man

by Elizabeth Yates

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How did Amos Fortune interpret "king" as a term for someone of worth?

Quick answer:

Amos knows "king" refers to a person of worth because in Africa, he was born the son of a king. He clings to this identity even when he is kidnapped and sent across the ocean to become a slave.

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Amos, born At-mun, knows a king is a person of worth because in Africa he is the son of king. When he is captured by slave traders as a teenager and brought to the American colonies to be sold, the memory of his heritage helps sustain him. For example, when he is in being transported across the ocean as a captive, he reminds himself that:

He must bum forever upon his memory ... his birthright. "I am a king," At-mun whispered to himself in the At-mun-shi tongue, over and over in the darkness of the hold of the rolling ship, "I am At-mun."

Later, when he is up for auction, he dimly remembers that he is a king, which helps him deal with the humiliation of his situation. When the slave trader jeers that he should be given the Biblical name of Amos to overcome being a "heathen," At-mun is able to be concentrate on the dignity of his birth.

At-mun is purchased by Quakers, and the young Quaker girl Roxanna, daughter of his owners, reads to him from the Bible about Jesus washing away the blood of sinners and making them all kings and priests. These words remind At-mun/Amos of his fading past, and he clings to them. Years later, he ruminates as an older man on the

words read by a little Quaker girl in a clear voice, words that had burned themselves into his mind and burned away the shackles hate ... "Unto him that loved us ... and hath made us Kings and priests unto God."

Even though he buys his freedom, Amos knows he cannot become the earthly king he would have been had he not been kidnapped into slavery, but he realizes that Christianity is a path to another kind of kingship for him. He knows being a king is honorable because of his childhood, and he finds in his new form of kingship a sense of dignity.

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