Jackie Copeland

Photo: Jacqueline “Jackie” Copeland stands near the sculpture “Glory” by artist Elizabeth Catlett at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum in 2019. (Barbara Haddock Taylor/Baltimore Sun)

Dear AAAM Members and Supporters,

It is with heavy hearts that we share the news of the passing of Jacqueline “Jackie” Copeland, the former Executive Director of the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture. Jackie has left behind a legacy that will forever resonate in the hearts of those who had the privilege of knowing her.

Jackie Copeland’s tenure at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum was marked by visionary leadership, unwavering dedication, and a deep commitment to connecting communities through the power of African American history and culture. During her time as Executive Director, she made significant contributions that left an indelible mark on the museum and the broader field of African American museums.

In particular, Jackie Copeland played a pivotal role in ensuring that the Reginald F. Lewis Museum took bold and innovative approaches to stay connected to the Baltimore, Maryland community during the challenging COVID-19 pandemic. Her leadership during this period was characterized by resilience and creativity, as she navigated uncharted waters to continue serving and engaging the public, even when physical doors were temporarily closed. Under her guidance, the museum implemented virtual programs, exhibitions, and educational initiatives that not only maintained the museum’s presence but also expanded its reach to a national audience.

One of Jackie’s remarkable accomplishments was bringing the Elizabeth Catlett collection to the Reginald F. Lewis Museum. This collection, showcasing the powerful and thought-provoking works of one of America’s most celebrated African American artists, enriched the museum’s offerings and further elevated its stature as a center for African American art and culture.

Jackie Copeland’s passion for African American history and culture was infectious, and her dedication to the mission of the museum was an inspiration to all who worked alongside her. Her legacy is not only the tangible achievements and growth of the museum but also the enduring impact she had on the lives of countless individuals who were touched by her vision and commitment.

Damika Baker of our AAAM Board worked closely with Jackie and shared the following:

Jackie was a force and a light. As a true champion of Black culture, she never missed an opportunity to educate others about the invaluable contributions that Black people, globally, have made to the arts and culture space. Whether it was a college lecture hall, Zoom meeting or phone conversation, Jackie’s passion for the subject was contagious and those of us who had the pleasure and privilege to share a space with her walked away feeling enriched. Jackie left an indelible legacy. She will be deeply, deeply missed. 

As we remember Jackie Copeland and the contributions she made to our community and to the Reginald F. Lewis Museum, let us honor her memory by continuing the vital work of preserving, interpreting, and celebrating African American history and culture. Let us carry forward her spirit of resilience, innovation, and community engagement as we navigate the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

Our thoughts and condolences go out to Jackie’s family, friends, and all who had the privilege of knowing her. She will be deeply missed, but her legacy will live on in the hearts and minds of those who share her passion for African American history and culture.

A funeral will be held at 10 a.m. Oct. 26 at People’s Congregation United Church of Christ, 4704 13th Street NW, Washington, D.C. A life celebration will be held from 2:30 to 5 p.m. Oct. 27 at the Walters Art Museum.

Kind regards,

Vedet Coleman-Robinson

Executive Director

Association of African American Museums