Leaving to learn

Posted in Articles, Biography, Campus Life, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, Mexico, Passing, Slavery, United States on 2015-12-03 02:37Z by Steven

Leaving to learn

Columbia Daily Spectator

Claire Liebmann

Courtesy of Karl Jacoby

Several years ago while browsing newspaper clippings online, Karl Jacoby, a history professor at Columbia, came across the story of William Ellis—a Texan slave who built a million dollar fortune while posing as a Mexican millionaire in New York, essentially hacking the system of American expansionism and oppression.

Tracking Ellis as he took on different names and personas was difficult: Ellis deliberately introduced falsehoods into the historical record to ensure that his racial passing was accepted by the broader society, but Jacoby stuck with it. Years later, this chance encounter with Ellis’ story would come to drive his personal historical research. Undertaking a yearlong leave of absence, he pursued his interest in reclaiming untold narratives, working on his book The Strange Career of William Ellis: The Texas Slave Who Became a Mexican Millionaire.

Jacoby’s academic career is driven by his interest in complicating comfortable historical narratives. This process of reinvention and rediscovery depends on another kind of separation from the establishment: Jacoby’s reliance on his leave of absence as a means of promoting academic innovation…

Read the entire article here.

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