Amos Fortune Biography
Amos Fortune (c. 1710 –November 1801) was an eighteenth-century prominent African-American Jaffrey citizen, New Hampshire. Fortune was born in Africa and transported as a slave to America. At the age of 60, he bought his freedom and moved to Jaffrey to start a tannery business in leather. Jaffrey Public Library now archived documents testify to his literacy, community position, and financial success.
Amos Fortune Life in Jaffrey
Amos Fortune moved to Jaffrey in 1781 to become a tanner. His first home and tannery were at the foot of a hill west of what is now the Common Jaffrey Center on land set aside for a minister yet to be named. Laban Ainsworth was called to be the first minister of Jaffrey a year later.
Fortune remained on the property and it seems that the two men have become friends. Fortune bought 25 acres (100,000 m2) at another Tyler Brook location in 1789. The house and barn he built in their original location are still standing. Amos Fortune Road is now called the road the house is on.
The tannery of Fortune seems to have prospered. In addition to nearby New Hampshire cities, he took on at least two apprentices and served clients in Massachusetts. He became a full First Church member and helped establish the Jaffrey Social Library.
Amos Fortune Purchase of Freedom
Amos Fortune’s first record is an unsigned “freedom paper” dated 30 December 1763. In it, the owner of Fortune, Ichabod Richardson, a “Woburn tanner in New England’s Massachusetts-bay province,” outlines an agreement with Fortune that at the end of four years Amos would be “Discharged, Freed, and Set at Liberty from My Service Power & Command forever….” When Richardson died unexpectedly in 1768, his will did not contain any mention of the freedom of Fortune. Fortune then negotiated to “pay off his bond” with Richardson’s heirs.
He made the final payment in 1770 and then bought his freedom. Fortune continued to live and work in Woburn after buying his freedom. He purchased land and built a house from the family of his first mistress. In that year, 1775, his wife, Lily Twombly, whom he bought from Billerica’s Josiah Bowers for twenty pounds, died.
On November 9, 1779, Fortune bought from James Baldwin the liberty of a woman named Violet (also spelled Violate, including on her tombstone). They’ve been married in Woburn the next day.
Amos Fortune Legacy
Elizabeth Yates wrote a Newbery Medal-winning biographical novel entitled Amos Fortune, Free Man in 1950.
A 1997 short film, Amos Fortune Road, meditates on the scantness and fragility of the surviving historical record regarding Amos Fortune.
Amos Fortune Death
Fortune died at the age of 91 in January of 1801. He’s buried in the Old Burying Ground behind the Jaffrey Meetinghouse. His estate’s inventory attests to his prosperity.
Silver shoe buckles, a silver watch, and a fur coat are among the items listed. His executor, Eleazer, was instructed by Fortune to have “hand stones” erected for his wife and himself and to make the church a “beautiful present.” The rest of the money was given to the city to support the number 7 of the schoolhouse.
This last legacy has evolved into the Amos Fortune Fund, supporting a variety of projects including contests for public speaking and special publications. The Jaffrey Public Library is now administering the Fund, using the income to develop and distribute Amos Fortune educational materials. In 1802, one year after her husband Amos, Violate Fortune died and was buried next to him.
Reverend Laban Ainsworth wrote their epitaphs: Sacred to the memory of Amos Fortune, who was born free in Africa, a slave in America, he purchased Liberty professed Christianity, lived reputably, and died hopefully, November 17, 1801, AEt. 91 Sacred to Violate’s memory, by the sale of Amos Fortune’s slave, by his wife’s marriage, by her fidelity, by her friend and by her consolation, she died on September 13, 1802, AEt. 73.
Amos Fortune gets interviewed and talks about their two new singles, their live shows and much more.
1. Your two new singles, “Long Night” and “Resolution” just got released. What do you want listeners to take away from it?
Eric: Rather than track these ourselves, we recorded them with our good friend Jason Duguay at Project Sound Recording in Haverhill, MA. After tracking, we completed the mixing ourselves as with our other projects. We all think these are great rock songs plain and simple, and hope other people will feel that as well. We want people hear these new ones and listen back to our older stuff to get an idea of the progress we’ve made in the last two years with our chemistry and overall sound, and try to imagine what those older recordings sound like now. These new songs are as close as we’ve come yet to capturing our live sound, and we think it shows our growth as engineers and producers as well as players.
Cole: Long Night was the quickest song we’ve written together. Josh showed us two chord progressions and within 5 minutes we all had our parts pretty much laid out. The verse and chorus melodies came instantly to me, which is usually not the case, and the lyrics I pieced together over the next month. I really like the raw energy of the tune. In a roundabout way the song is about not being complacent with your life, beliefs, and feelings when life throws you hardship and conflict.
2. Has there been any discussion regarding a music video for any of the singles? If so, which track?
Cole: There is a video for “Long Night” in the works that we plan to have completed in March, stay tuned for that.
3. What was the inspiration for the cover art for the singles and who designed it?
Cole: We have a band artist, Matt Benjamin. He has done all of our album artwork and worked as art director for our “Hoedown” video. We wanted to take a different approach to these singles. Previously we’ve stuck with mostly black and white drawings. For these we wanted them to stand out and be something of their own. We asked Matt to make them colorful, use photo, and still stay within the general look we’ve been developing.
Matt: “With “Long Night” I had so much to go on with the lyrics. Cole has a way of painting a picture with his lyrics and I just tried to capture what I saw while listening to the song. Our logo is a coyote skull, so having a photographic representation of the coyote just seemed fitting. For “Resolution” parts of the creature design were from an image I’d done a few years back. I used the same coyote head from “Long Night” to tie the two together. The creature itself is somewhere between a spirit animal and a totem. Besides the head, it’s made up of crow, dragonfly, tree branches, and human skeleton all of which are of personal and symbolic meaning. The background image is a photo of mine that had a transcendent feeling for me.”
4. What’s your favorite track to play live?
We all have our own I’m sure………
Eric: “Classic Radio” is a tune from one of our former bands that Amos Fortune hasn’t recorded yet, but live is so much fun. Some of the guitar parts Kayne plays, it’s hard not to just stop the song and be like “what the fuck was that!”
Cole: I really like playing “Robin Hood”, off of our first EP. Of all the material, that tune has grown so much since the initial recording; we just play it so much better live now. We’ve added an extended jam at the end that is very fun to go crazy on; our current record is clocking in “Robin Hood” at 9 minutes when playing live.
Kayne: I enjoy playing both “Robin Hood” and “Classic Radio”, but there are also nights when “Larry Underwood” just really hits hard.
Tom: Lately it’s a toss up between “Classic Radio” and “Long Night”. Both songs are just so much fun and so crazy to play. “Cannons” is another favorite of mine, it’s one of our 9+ minute monsters though.
Josh: I am really digging “Long Night” right now. It’s new, it’s fast and fun to play. “Larry Underwood” is always fun too because we play it different every time.
5. What artists are you currently listening to? Any acts you recommend that people should check out?
Cole: Adia Victoria. Check out the video “Horrible Weather.”
Eric: “The Unknown Woodsmen” album from Beauty In the Machine. Been going strong in my rotation for over a year. They are an all around solid band, great songwriting and lyrics that makes sense to me.
Kayne: This past fall I met Kiirstin Marilyn at the Mesa Music Festival in Mesa, Arizona. Everyone should go support everything she does. She is an incredible talent and has some very strong important messages in her lyrics.
Tom: I’ve been listening a lot to Benny Greb. There’s just something about the way he sets the groove that just floors me.
Josh: The White Buffalo – “How the West Was Won”…..and George Harrison – “All Things Must Pass”, both great albums.
6. What was the last concert you went to as a fan?
Cole: I had wanted to see Denver based band The Yawpers so bad that I cut a vacation short to fly to Boston to see them. They coincidentally released an album “American Man” around the time we released “American Folklore”. A lot of the art and lyrical imagery have a similar vibe. They destroyed the show, and I was fortunate enough to spend the night hanging with the band and got a sneak peak of their upcoming album.
Eric: Me and Josh took our wives on a double date to see The White Buffalo in Cambridge, MA a few months ago and it was amazing! He is a great writer and singer, and the live show exceeded expectations, total rock and roll, the bass players amp literally caught fire! At the end of his set I scurried up to the stage and tossed an Amos Fortune t shirt up there, which he promptly grabbed and wiped the sweat from his brow. Don’t know what came of the shirt but it’s cool thinking he has it somewhere. Josh also ran into Jake Smith later that night and chatted with him for a few minutes.
Josh: Yeah that was a fucking fun night!
Kayne: My wife and I just saw Temple of the Dog at MSG. Possibly a once in a lifetime opportunity and well worth the road trip.
7. As an artist, what’s your take on the streaming sites (Spotify, Tidal, Apple Music, etc.) and how they pay royalties to bands?
Cole: The more I hear these figures about artist payouts, the more my mind is blown. I don’t have an answer but it’s crazy. I will say I love the fact vinyl’s popularity is soaring. But it is a little frustrating when you spend thousands of self-funded dollars to record songs and it’s now the norm to release it instantly online for free.
Kayne: I like the idea that unsigned bands can some exposure that way. And I personally use some of those sites myself to hear some of my favorite bands (although I own almost any album I’m searching for already.) But music fans really need to make sure they don’t diminish the value of music. Find out about stuff you like through YouTube and Spotify and all that crap, maybe someone you never heard before, but then make sure you go out and buy that artists album, and go to their shows. Support the artist, support art, support music. We need to make sure we don’t turn music into a fast food drive-thru, and that’s where it looks like we are headed.
Josh: Well I think we are at the point of no return when it comes to online streaming and I stream a lot of music. You got to get the live show tight and tour to get paid these days.
8. How would you describe your music to the average person?
Eric: Genuine, heart felt rock and fucking roll. Aside from Tom, none of us have any formal music training, and his wasn’t even on drums, but I don’t think that holds us back at all. We have taught ourselves to play through persistence, but our music has always transcended just notes and melodies. It is an extension of all of our lives and experiences. For us it’s about tapping into our emotions and chemistry together as friends that makes it work,. We want people to see us live because that aspect comes through in our performances. To us that is rock and roll, and that’s the way all music should be.
Cole: So many people have told me that we are a better live band than a recorded one. I take that as a compliment. We are always in pursuit of finding better ways to capture our true sound on record, but we want to win fans over from seeing the spontaneity of our live performances.
Josh: Genuine…from the soul…rock.
9. What’s next for Amos Fortune?
Eric: We’ve already booked studio time at Project Sound for late February to record a live album, complete with some video. Studio time is an expense we just can’t afford, so we helped our friend install brand new wood floors in his studio in exchange for a couple of days of uncensored mischief. We will be tracking some new material, some old material, and some really old, revamped stuff. We are pretty stoked about our plans for that project.
Cole: I wrote a song last night that I haven’t showed the guys yet, but when I do I think it will cause some black hole outer space shit.
Kayne: We know we have something that other human beings out there can connect to. Rock music is very important to keep alive in this sterile phase of music history. Rock recycles all that bullshit floating around out there. I refuse to believe that rock is dead. We would like to get our music out there to as many people as we can because we know other people love rock as much as we do. We would like to play more shows and travel even farther outside our area to give music fans that opportunity to hear our shit.
10. What do you want to achieve in the next year?
We want to play music for a living. We are hoping to get the Amos Fortune name out there. We are hoping in 2017 we can find some sort of financial support to help us string together some tours in order to perform our live shows on national and international stages. We have a growing catalogue of music, and no shortage of ideas or inspiration. We’ve all been at this for a long time and we aren’t kids anymore. We know what we are capable of and know what we want. We have families and homes and it is hard to finance tours and albums on our meager salaries so we want the opportunity to focus on our music more to be able to achieve our potential. One thing we know is we won’t stop till we make that happen.