Winner of the Ray Allen Billington Prize and the Phillis Wheatley Book Award
“An American ‘Odyssey,’ the larger-than-life story of a man who travels far in the wake of war and gets by on his adaptability and gift for gab.” —Wall Street Journal
A black child born on the US-Mexico border in the twilight of slavery, William Ellis inhabited a world divided along ambiguous racial lines. Adopting the name Guillermo Eliseo, he passed as Mexican, transcending racial lines to become fabulously wealthy as a Wall Street banker, diplomat, and owner of scores of mines and haciendas south of the border. In The Strange Career of William Ellis, prize-winning historian Karl Jacoby weaves an astonishing tale of cunning and scandal, offering fresh insights on the history of the Reconstruction era, the US-Mexico border, and the abiding riddle of race in America.