on the screen

On the Screen

View All



View All


Helping those in need

Visit Site

MP3 Audio Sample

goodreads logo

Short Synopsis
A prize-winning historian tells a new story of the black experience in America through the life of a mysterious entrepreneur.

Full Synopsis
To his contemporaries in Gilded Age Manhattan, Guillermo Eliseo was a fantastically wealthy Mexican, the proud owner of a luxury apartment overlooking Central Park, a busy Wall Street office, and scores of mines and haciendas in Mexico. But for all his obvious riches and his elegant appearance, Eliseo was also the possessor of a devastating secret: he was not, in fact, from Mexico at all. Rather, he had begun life as a slave named William Ellis, born on a cotton plantation in Texas during the waning years of King Cotton.

After emancipation, Ellis, capitalizing on the Spanish he learned during his childhood along the Mexican border and his ambivalent appearance, engaged in a virtuoso act of reinvention. He crafted an alter ego, the Mexican Guillermo Eliseo, who was able to access many of the privileges denied to African Americans at the time.

The Strange Career of William Ellis offers fresh insights on the history of the Reconstruction era, the U.S.-Mexico border, and the abiding riddle of race. At a time when the United States is deepening its connections with Latin America and recognizing that race is more than simply black or white, Ellis's story could not be more timely or important.

"Readers will gain fresh insight into life during Reconstruction as well as the riddle of racial identities." ---Library Journal Starred Review

"A masterpiece of border history." ---Greg Grandin, author of Empire of Necessity

"An extraordinary story told with extraordinary skill." ---Steven Hahn, author of A Nation under Our Feet
Library Journal Review

The Strange Career of William Ellis

The Texas Slave Who Became a Mexican Millionaire

Author Karl Jacoby

Narrated by JD Jackson

Publication date Jun 15, 2016

Running time 9 hrs 29 min

Available Formats

Let us know!