Signed boxing gloves from Muhammad Ali are just one of the many artifacts at the Copeland African American museum.

Valdosta, Georgia—It all started in 2016. Drs. Roy and Cheryl Copeland gifted their entire African American memorabilia collection to Valdosta State University’s (VSU’s) Harley Langdale Jr. College of Business.

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, then dean of the college of business, found a cozy and easily accessible spot on the second floor of Thaxton Hall. With support from various groups across campus, he 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,” Roy Copeland said. “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 Copeland African American Museum collection spans more than 150 years of history and features more than 100 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 museum houses about a third of the total collection, including those Muhammad Ali boxing gloves, tools from Madame C. J. Walker, a guitar signed by B.B. King, a signed letter by Martin Luther King, and much more. The displays are scheduled to rotate, encouraging guests of all ages to return to the museum again and again for a fresh learning experience.

On January 28, 2020, the museum celebrated its grand opening and since then has welcomed over 1000 visitors, including 150 four and five-year-olds from a local preschool.

The museum is free and open to the public. It is open daily Monday-Thursday 10:00AM-2:00PM and Friday 10:00AM-1:00PM. The address to the museum is 2525 North Patterson St. Valdosta, Georgia 31698. It is in  Thaxton Hall Suite 200 on Rea and Lillian Steele’s North Campus at Valdosta State University, which is directly across from the South Georgia Medical Center. You can also arrive to the museum from 107 Pendleton Drive. There is ADA accessibility, located on the right side of Thaxton Hall.
To help prevent the spread of COVID-19, masks are required, and social distance must be practiced while in the museum. Currently, the museum can hold 10 visitors at a time.

Recently, the museum announced the option of touring the museum virtually, allowing for visitors near and far to enjoy the collection. This option will become available by the middle of March. The physical exhibit is set to rotate early March.

For those interested in knowing more about the museum, please connect by visiting the website blog.valdosta.edu/copelandmuseum or follow the museum on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter @vsucaam.

For more information, please email caammuseum@valdosta.edu or call at 229245-2448.