After years of acquiring pieces of African American memorabilia, Roy and Cheryl Copeland gifted their collection to the Valdosta State University Harley Langdale Jr. College of Business Administration (LCOBA).
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 her husband, 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 and online auctions, garage sales, antique houses, and more.
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, dean of the LCOBA, 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.
“African American history, and the preservation thereof, is near and dear to my heart,” says Roy Copeland. “My wife and I decided that VSU was the best place to house the collection. It’s local, and I think we need a place where local folks have access to this material.”
The museum currently houses about a third of the total collection, including Muhammad Ali boxing gloves. The displays are scheduled to change twice a year, encouraging guests of all ages to return to the museum again and again for a fresh learning experience.
At the official opening of the museum on Jan. 28, Josh Harvey-Clemons, a 25-year-old Valdosta native and football linebacker for the Washington Redskins delivered the keynote presentation, discussing the importance of education and family, and how hard work, perseverance, and faith have the power to overcome obstacles and make dreams come true.
Located in Thaxton Hall on VSU’s Rea and Lillian Steele North Campus, the Copeland African American Museum is open 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday.