//VSU’s Copeland African American Museum adds new pieces to exhibition

VSU’s Copeland African American Museum adds new pieces to exhibition

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Just like its founders, Roy and Cheryl Copeland, Valdosta State University’s Copeland African American Museum is unwavering in its commitment to preserve and uplift the stories of African American history.  

When the Copeland African American Museum first opened its doors in January 2020, visitors from diverse backgrounds and perspectives came from all over to see the African American memorabilia on display. Young and old began to share ideas and experiences and be inspired to learn more about why African American history matters to everyone.   

It was a dream come true for the Copelands, who have spent the past 30-plus years building a legacy of encouraging people of all ages and all ethnicities to examine, explore, and analyze the innovative, creative, and intelligent contributions of African Americans throughout history — and to remember, recognize, and celebrate those contributions all year along.  

The Copeland African American Museum’s doors were opened just a few weeks before the global health crisis closed them — like most museums around the world. Several months later, the museum reopened and the visitors returned, including school and civic groups. Motivated by a desire to reach more people, the museum began working to create a virtual experience to allow the entire world to enjoy its collection. 

Caption: The Copeland African American Museum

“The Copeland African American Museum is a cultural destination that both respects the past and transforms the way we see the future,” shared Ashley Braswell, development director for the Harley Langdale Jr. College of Business Administration, which oversees the day-to-day operations of the museum. “It is just one way our university is building bridges, bringing attention to diversity and inclusion, and shining a light on African American tribulations and triumph. 

“Earlier this year we added some new pieces to the current exhibition, so even if you came to the museum when it first opened, we invite you to return and take another look.”   

The refreshed learning experience includes a tribute to Sugar Ray Robinson, an athlete known for his speed, power, and wit inside the boxing ring, which earned him the title of Greatest Boxer of All Time.  

It also includes a guitar signed by Ellas McDaniel, better known as Bo Diddley, a singer, guitarist, songwriter, and music producer who drove music into a new era — Blues to Rock and Roll — and influenced such greats as Elvis Presley, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Buddy Holly, George Thorogood, and The Clash.  

In 2016 Roy and Cheryl Copeland gifted their entire African American memorabilia collection to VSU’s Harley Langdale Jr. College of Business Administration.  

Believing the collection deserved a place where it could be permanently displayed and enjoyed by guests for many generations to come, Dr. L. Wayne Plumly, who retired as college dean in 2020, found a cozy, easily accessible spot on the second floor of Thaxton Hall, and with support from various groups across campus, turned it into a destination for anyone seeking inspiration, knowledge, a change of perspective, and food for conversation. 

The Copeland African American Museum collection spans more than 150 years of history and features more than 75 pieces, which the Copelands began collecting in 1989 when Cheryl Copeland surprised Roy Copeland with a set of autographed Muhammad Ali boxing gloves for Christmas. She continued to select a unique piece of history for him every year, and soon the couple began collecting even more African American memorabilia at live auctions, online auctions, garage sales, antique houses, and more. 

The current Copeland African American Museum exhibit houses about a third of the total collection, including those Muhammad Ali boxing gloves. The displays are scheduled to change from time to time, encouraging guests of all ages to return to the museum again and again for a fresh learning experience.  

The Copeland African American Museum is open 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Fridays. Group tours may be scheduled by sending an email to caammuseum@valdosta.edu or by calling (229) 245-2448. Parking passes may be obtained via email with advance notification. Admission is free of charge.     

Thaxton Hall is located on VSU’s Rea and Lillian Steele North Campus, at the intersection of Patterson Street and Pendleton Drive across from South Georgia Medical Center. 

On the Web:  https://blog.valdosta.edu/copelandmuseum/