Ariel gears for Black History Month

By Dean Wright -

GALLIPOLIS — The Ariel Opera House is prepping for its celebration of Black History Month with a performance featuring the music of African American composers Feb. 11 at 2 p.m. in the third floor Ariel Chamber Theatre.

Among composers to be featured include William Grant Still by The Ohio Valley Symphony Woodwind Quintet.

Still composed over 150 works, among those eight operas and five symphonies. He was the first American composer to have an opera produced by the New York City Opera. He attended Wilberforce University as well as the Oberlin Conservatory of Music in Oberlin, Ohio. Because he collaborated with cultural figures such as Langston Hughes and Alain Locke, Still is considered to be part of the Harlem Renaissance movement.

Previous Ariel Opera House Black History Month celebrations included features surrounding local historical figures John Gee and Dr. Edward Bouchet. Gee managed to become a community leader during this time due to his skill, ingenuity and work ethic. He was historically remembered as a builder of homes. He built houses of brick, some of which are still standing to this day. He began to buy up land and became one of the largest landowners in Gallipolis in the 1800s. His property started at the Ohio River and stretched westward out Pine Street and north on Second Avenue.

Bouchet, the deceased African American physicist, teacher and principal, was known historically for being the first African American graduate of Yale College, the second African American to be nominated to the Phi Beta Kappa Society and the first African American to earn a Ph.D., as well as being the sixth person of any race to earn a doctorate in physics in the Western Hemisphere. He served from 1908 to 1913 as a principal and teacher at the late Lincoln School in Gallipolis on Third Avenue before it closed in 1951. The Lincoln School was known to have served African American students of the time.

According to previous statements by Bobette Braxton, of the John Gee Historical Society, “history walks with two legs in Gallipolis and people never know when it hits them in the face.”

By Dean Wright