GALLIPOLIS — In preparation for the 152nd annual Emancipation Celebration weekend, the Ariel Theater in Gallipolis is hosting a homecoming reception and featured performance Friday to honor a deceased board member of the Emancipation Celebration Day Committee.
According to Emancipation Celebration Day Committee board member Elaine Armstrong, the evening’s events are to be dedicated to Corliss Miller, who passed away earlier this year. Committee members said they felt it appropriate to honor her memory using the same event she spent much of her life endorsing.
“Corliss was a woman of substance,” said Lora Snow, executive director of the Ariel Theater. “There wasn’t a single person that didn’t honor and revere her.”
At 6 p.m. Friday, a homecoming reception will be held with food and light refreshments in the second floor banquet hall of the theater. At 7 p.m., the Rev. Dr. J.W. Smith, associate professor of speech communication in the School of Communication Studies at Ohio University, is expected to speak, play piano and sing Gospel songs in Miller’s honor.
“Mrs. Miller was a Gallia County educator, born and raised here,” Armstrong said. “She married one of the descendants of the Lambert Lands, which is well-known in Gallia County where slaves were freed.”
According to Armstrong, the Lambert family came to Gallia County in the early 1800s from Bedford County, Va. They freed their slaves and gave them land in Morgan Township. Glenn Miller, vice-president of the Emancipation Day Celebration Committee, was Corliss’ husband.
Corliss taught for more than 30 years and was also known for being a historian of American civil rights affairs and African American history. She and her husband were known for traveling to numerous locations, community events, schools and state-level functions to educate and spread awareness of history. They were also commonly known as historic re-enactors. Corliss was 70 when she passed away.
According to papers gathered from the Ariel Theater, keynote speaker Dr. Smith “feels that as a blind African American, it is essential that we expand the term ‘diversity’ and incorporate every effort necessary to create an environment that encourages openness and understanding.”
River Valley High School student Destiny Dotson is also expected to make a portrayal of African American journalist and early civil rights movement leader Ida B. Wells. Dotson is known to have won several competitions for her re-enactment of Wells.
The Emancipation Celebration weekend is expected to continue at Bob Evans Farms in Rio Grande on Saturday and Sunday beginning at 10 a.m.
Dean Wright can be reached at (740) 446-2342, Ext. 2103.