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Gala Celebrates Ralph Ellison Centennial

The Ralph Ellison Centennial Committee is hosting a gala at the Oklahoma History Center at 6 p.m. Feb. 8 to celebrate the life of one of the most important literary figures in U.S. and state history.

The black-tie-optional event will feature an elegant dinner, live entertainment, tributes from local and national dignitaries and a keynote address from John F. Callahan, Ellison’s literary executor.

Tickets are available online at Proceeds will go to the Ralph Ellison Foundation.

A native of Oklahoma City, Ellison is an internationally renowned writer and author of the 1953 National Book Award-winning novel “Invisible Man.” He wrote numerous short stories; essays on jazz, literature, and American culture collected in “Shadow and Act” (1964) and “Going to the Territory” (1986); and his posthumous novels “Juneteenth” and “Three Days before the Shooting.”

Callahan’s presentation will focus on Ellison’s Oklahoma roots. Callahan was the editor for “Juneteenth.” He published a fuller version of Ellison's unfinished second novel as “Three Days Before the Shooting” in 2008.

 In addition to his work with Ellison, Callahan has written or edited numerous volumes related to African-American literature, with a particular emphasis on 20th century literature. Some of Callahan's other works include “In the African-American Grain: The Pursuit of Voice in 20th Century Black Fiction,” “Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man: A Casebook” and “The Illusions of a Nation: Myth and History in the Novels of F. Scott Fitzgerald.” He also edited Ellison's short story collection “Flying Home” and co-edited the Modern Library edition of “Trading Twelves.” Callahan currently serves as the Morgan S. Odell Professor of Humanities at Lewis & Clark College. 

Several dignitaries will offer tributes to Ellison during the gala including U.S. Rep. James Lankford, state Sen. David Holt, state Sen. Constance Johnson, state Rep. Mike Shelton, Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett and Oklahoma City Councilman John Pettis Jr.

Entertainment will include a dance performance from Derrick Minter, an Ailey master teaching artist in Horton technique. Minter has performed with Aretha Franklin and at Carnegie Hall with Maya Angelou and George Benson. Other performing credits include the Essence Awards and the Espy Awards on ESPN.

Actor Robert Jamerson will perform a dramatic monologue from “Invisible Man,” and a jazz band will provide musical entertainment.

For more information about the gala and the Ralph Ellison Centennial celebrations, visit the website at

Ralph Ellison