Amos Fortune, Free Man. Elizabeth Yates

Dutton, 1950; Awarded 1953.

Synopsis: Born an African prince, sold in Boston, well treated by a series of masters, Amos Fortune learned the tanner's trade, professed Christianity, and eventually bought his freedom. He was able to give freedom to several other people.

Themes: Slavery; Slaverunning; Freedom; Tanners

Author information: Elizabeth Yates was born December 6, 1905 in Buffalo, N.Y. She went to school there and in Mamarock, N.Y. Living in Europe in the 1930's, she started writing articles for American newspapers. She published her first book in 1938 and wrote more than 50 others. She helped organize writers' conferences and was active as an environmentalist. She died July 28, 2001. "New York Times, August 2, 2001"

Discussion questions:  Standard 3, Benchmark 3

  1. Which relative would Amos always remember and how did the memory of this relative cause him to dedicate himself to serving others?
  2. Describe how Amos changed the lives of the people that he met in Africa, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire. How did he set people free? Did he do it only with money?
  3. If the ship carrying Amos Fortune had deposited him in a southern American port instead of a northern American colony port, how would that have changed his life?


  1. Make a cornhusk doll similar to the doll Amos made for Celyndia.  Standard 5, Benchmark 3
  2. Identify spirituals Amos and the other characters sang. Record the words, find the tunes, and learn to sing these traditional songs.  Standard 3, Benchmark 4
  3. Create a time line of Amos Fortune's life starting with his birth in Africa in 1710 and indicate the important events that happened to him, their dates, and where they occurred, ending with his death in 1801 in New Hampshire.  Standard 7, Benchmark 1