- Hardcover: 336 pages
- Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1 edition (June 14, 2016)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 039323925X
- ISBN-13: 978-0393239256
- Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.2 x 9.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #630,600 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Strange Career of William Ellis: The Texas Slave Who Became a Mexican Millionaire 1st Edition
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“How is it that a black man named William Ellis, living in Reconstruction-era Texas, could transform himself into a Mexican magnate and conquer Wall Street, then disappear into history without a trace? Fortunately, Karl Jacoby has done the detective work to bring this intriguing larger-than-life figure back to life, challenging America’s fixed concepts of race, ethnicity and national identity. This fascinating history book reads like a novel.”
- Margot Lee Shetterly, author of Hidden Figures
“A masterpiece of border history. Jacoby has a biographer’s eye for detail and a detective’s talent for discovery, which he deftly uses to construct both the inner emotional life and larger social world of his subject. At once a history of the United States and of Mexico, Strange Career offers a truly transnational history of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century North America. Today, as borders are simultaneously being dissolved and hardened, Jacoby’s study of Ellis’s exceptional career is as timely as it is compelling.”
- Greg Grandin, author of Empire of Necessity and Fordlandia
“William Ellis was a chameleon, a trickster, and a man determined to shape his own identity. With enormous skill, Karl Jacoby uncovers this tremendous subject, revealing Ellis’s lies, and crafting a powerful new narrative about the porous borders of class, race, and national identity in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century American life. Deftly moving between the improbable details of Ellis’s biography and the larger political and cultural stories of the day, Jacoby demonstrates how one man’s life can help us understand the past in an entirely new way.”
- Martha A. Sandweiss, professor of history, Princeton University, and author of Passing Strange: A Gilded Age Tale of Love and Deception Across the Color Line
“Like all of his remarkable scholarship, Karl Jacoby’s The Strange Career of William Ellis takes an unexpected or little-known subject and, with great insight and imagination, uses it to shed new light on our larger past. He has excavated a life that began in obscurity and was ever being reinvented, and, in so doing, offers a deep understanding of the shifting boundaries of place, race, and social standing. An extraordinary story told with extraordinary skill.”
- Steven Hahn, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of A Nation under Our Feet
- Vladimir Alexandrov, San Francisco Chronicle
“[A] welcome and nuanced perspective to the racial history of the U.S. as well as a textured examination of the legacy of distrust between the United States and Mexico. …Ellis’ life is also a cracking good story, illustrated with intriguing photos and helpful maps topped off by an emotionally satisfying epilogue.”
- Sara Martinez, Booklist
“Fascinating… [an] important slice of American history.”
- Karen M. Thomas, Dallas News
About the Author
Karl Jacoby is a professor of history at Columbia University. The author of two previous books, he has won the Albert J. Beveridge Award and a Guggenheim Fellowship, among many other honors. He lives in New York.
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