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 in most recent published 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.
Published by W.W. Norton on June 19 (“Juneteenth”) 2016, The Strange Career of William Ellis: The Texas Slave who Became a Mexican Millionaire won the Ray Allen Billington Award from the Organization of American Historians, the Phillis Wheatley Prize from the Harlem Book Fair, and was a finalist for the Weber-Clements Prize for Borderlands History from the Western History Association. You can read more about the book in Forthcoming.