american historyFriday Fiction: Amos Fortune: Free Man

Friday Fiction: Amos Fortune: Free Man


Capital-laden: a free man

presenter: Somehow this 1951 book was still on the shelf, perhaps because of Newberry’s glowing sticker on the cover. Or maybe they just ignored it. Either way, a slave story written in the 1950s is likely to be questionable today, and I would say it is. Descriptions comparing black figures to dogs and untrained animals are jarring. It seems that the idea that Africans need to be civilized before they can deal with freedom is not presented as something that many people mistakenly believed at the time, but as actually true. At some point he speaks directly from the main character who is still enslaved himself. With some guidance and discussion, this book can teach about a variety of historical and contemporary trends in racist thought and language, but the children’s biography section in the public library is not the place for that.

Holly: No it’s not. The fact that a prize-winning book does not mean that it should be kept forever. Either put it in Newbery’s special reference collection or weed it out.

Mary: It was pretty much the only slavery debate that was around when I was a kid in the ’60s. I remember liking the story. However, it was written in the 1950s for a white audience and of course disinfected the evil of slavery for the said audience. Although Amos Fortune was based on a real man, it really is a biographical novel. I think this article can give people more of what to chew on if they guess Newberry weeds again.

Amos Fortune in Boston

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