“The Color Line and the Borderline: William Ellis, the Texas Slave Who Became a Mexican Millionaire”

November 17, 2016
1:30 pmto2:30 pm
3:30 pmto5:00 pm

Workshop: “Crowd Sourcing Historical Research”
Thursday, November 17, 1:30-2:30, in 375 McKenzie Hall

Public Talk: “The Color Line and the Borderline: William Ellis, the Texas Slave Who Became a Mexican Millionaire”
Thursday, November 17, 3:30-5, in Gerlinger Lounge

karl-jacoby-posterOn Thursday, November 17, Karl Jacoby and Robert “Chip” Williams will give two presentations of interest to students and faculty.

Karl Jacoby and Chip Williams will participate in a workshop aimed at undergraduates and graduate students. Titled “Crowd Sourcing Historical Research,” the workshop will discuss how Professor Jacoby used a website and social media to successfully “crowd source” some of his research into the history of William Henry Ellis and Ellis’s effort to challenge racial oppression by crossing the color line. The workshop will take place on Thursday, November 17, 1:30-2:30, in 375 McKenzie Hall. Light refreshments will be served. Students who wish to participate should email an RSVP to Marsha Weisiger by Wednesday, November 16, at: weisiger@uoregon.edu. The workshop is limited to 20 participants. Priority will be given to history graduate students and undergraduates in the Honors College and the Global Scholars Hall, but all students are welcome.

Following that presentation, Karl Jacoby will present a public talk, “The Color Line and the Borderline: William Ellis, the Texas Slave Who Became a Mexican Millionaire,” followed by a conversation with Robert “Chip” Williams, a descendant of William Ellis, and Marsha Weisiger, UO historian, whose ancestor owned the plantation where Ellis was born. The talk will take place on Thursday, November 17, 3:30-5, in Gerlinger Lounge. Light refreshments will be served. Copies of Professor Jacoby’s compelling book, The Strange Career of William Ellis, the Texas Slave Who Became a Mexican Millionaire, will be available for purchase. Professor Weisiger received a CSWS Faculty Research Grant several years ago that is tangentially related to this talk. She is researching the intertwined history of the Ellis and Weisiger families, upon which she and Karl Jacoby, Ellis’s descendants, have collaborated.

The story Karl Jacoby tells is a fascinating one. To his contemporaries in Gilded Age Manhattan, Guillermo Eliseo was a fantastically wealthy Mexican banker and broker with an apartment on Central Park West and an office on Wall Street. But he had a secret. He began life as William Ellis, an African American born into slavery in south Texas. Investigating the mystery surrounding Ellis/Eliseo, Karl Jacoby 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 story that casts into sharp relief the intimate entanglings across national boundaries that have rendered Mexico and the U.S. inseparable elements of a shared North American history.

Karl Jacoby is professor of history at Columbia University and affiliated with Columbia’s Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race. In addition to The Strange Career of William Ellis, Jacoby is the author of Shadows at Dawn: An Apache Massacre and the Violence of History, and Crimes Against Nature: Squatters, Poachers, Thieves, and the Hidden History of American Conservation. Jacoby is the winner of the Albert J. Beveridge Award in American history and a Guggenheim Fellow, among many other honors.

These presentations are sponsored by the Department of History, the Julie and Rocky Dixon Chair of U.S. Western History, the Center on Diversity and Community, the Oregon Humanities Center, University of Housing and the Division of Undergraduate Studies, the UO Honors College, and the Ethnic Studies Department.

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