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Houston Matters

William Ellis: The Former Slave Who Became a Mexican Millionaire

Guillermo Eliseo was a wealthy Mexican banker and broker who lived in New York City in the early 20 Century. But, Eliseo had a secret. He was actually born into slavery on a cotton plantation in southern Texas, and his real name was William Ellis. Maggie Martin talks with historian and author Karl Jacoby, who […]

Photo: Michael Hagerty, Houston Public Media

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Guillermo Eliseo was a wealthy Mexican banker and broker who lived in New York City in the early 20 Century.

But, Eliseo had a secret. He was actually born into slavery on a cotton plantation in southern Texas, and his real name was William Ellis.

Maggie Martin talks with historian and author Karl Jacoby, who wrote a book about Ellis. It’s called The Strange Career of William Ellis: the Texas Slave Who Became a Mexican Millionaire.

Jacoby talks about why Ellis made the move to Mexico, the ways his secret life cut him off from his family and the lessons from his life.