Karl Jacoby specializes in using small, carefully crafted tales to address some of the largest issues in American history, from the role of the environment in shaping human power relations to the challenges of representing the profound violence experienced by North America’s indigenous peoples. In his latest work, Jacoby brings to life the story of an elusive figure known variously as W. H. Ellis, Guillermo Ellis, and Guillermo Enrique Eliseo. As Jacoby peels away the layers of mystery surrounding Ellis/Eliseo, he reveals a long-ignored history of slavery and emancipation, racial mixing and racial segregation that spans the U.S.-Mexico border. The result is a study that casts into sharp relief the intimate entangling across national boundaries that have rendered Mexico and the U.S. inseparable elements of a shared North American history.
This project is scheduled to be released as The Strange Career of William Ellis: The Texas Slave who Became a Mexican Millionaire from W.W. Norton on June 19 (“Juneteenth”) 2016. Read more about the book in Forthcoming.