VALDOSTA — The law firm of Copeland, Haugabrook & Walker recently donated $50,000 to support the Valdosta State University Copeland African American Museum’s ongoing efforts to preserve and uplift the stories of African American history.
“Our contribution to the Copeland African American Museum is our commitment to preserving the history and contributions of African Americans throughout the ages,” said Nathaniel Haugabrook II, attorney. “The memorabilia displayed in the museum is a testament to the intellectual prowess of African Americans and should be an inspiration to all generations, that no matter the obstacle, you can triumph and be victorious if you persevere.”
“I have an interest in the museum because it is a reminder of the rich history of African Americans in this country,” said Karla Walker, attorney. “I know that I have been the beneficiary of all the tenacity, brilliance and innovation of the African American community. It is my desire to perpetuate that legacy through my contributions to the community. The Copeland African American Museum is a great opportunity to share African American history with the community and the student body at VSU.”
In 2016, Roy and Cheryl Copeland gifted their entire African American memorabilia collection to VSU’s Harley Langdale Jr. College of Business Administration, university officials said in a statement.
“A few years later that gift inspired the creation of the Copeland African American Museum, a destination for anyone seeking inspiration, knowledge, a change of perspective and food for conversation,” university officials said.
“The Copeland African American Museum is a cultural destination that both respects the past and transforms the way we see the future,” said 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.”
When the Copeland African American Museum first opened its doors in January 2020, visitors from diverse backgrounds and perspectives came 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,” university officials said.
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, they added.
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 view its collection.
“We are thrilled to continue receiving inquiries from local and neighboring schools, churches and organizations that are interested in touring the museum,” Braswell said.
“The law firm of Copeland, Haugabrook & Walker is making it possible for us to continue opening our doors to visitors of all ages, finding new ways to expand the educational experience and ensuring that this museum remains a place where people can have those tough conversations, grow individually and as a community, and be better able to support one another moving forward.”
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, etc.
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, university officials said.
The Copeland African American Museum is open 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Fridays. Group tours may be scheduled by sending an email to email@example.com 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.
Roy Copeland said it is exciting to see people enjoy the museum and discover new knowledge about African American history and accomplishments.
“It is the equivalent of realizing your dreams and being able to share those dreams with the community.”
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