Tim Stanley

With Flying Colours

The Strange Career of William Ellis: The Texas Slave Who Became a Mexican Millionaire

By

W W Norton & Company 304pp £17.99 order from our bookshop

In the early 1900s, a visitor from Victoria, Texas, to Manhattan, New York, was relaxing at the racecourse when a waiter brought a bottle of wine to his table. It was sent with the compliments of W H Ellis. The Texan didn’t know who that was so asked the waiter to point out the benefactor. The waiter drew his attention to a dark-skinned gentleman sitting with his white wife – and he gave the shocked Texan a cheery wave. W H Ellis was a former slave from Victoria, masquerading as a Mexican and, that day at the races, claiming equal social status with someone who could easily have been a descendant of his previous owners. Only in America.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter