CHARLES TOWN – It has come home.
The Green-Copeland American Legion Post 63 flag returned to the Jefferson County Museum Oct. 6 after being on display at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., for six months. The flag was part of the “We Return Fighting: The African American Experience in World War I,” exhibit.
“We are thrilled that the flag had such an honor to be at the Smithsonian, but delighted that it’s back home,” said Jane Rissler, director of the county museum.
The Green-Copeland flag belonged to one of the first African American American Legion posts in West Virginia. It was founded in Charles Town in 1929 at the request of 15 African Americans who served in World War I. The flag was loaned to the local museum by the family of Edward Dabney Tolbert, one of the post’s founders.
In the fall of 2016, the Jefferson County Museum had an exhibit commemorating the 100th anniversary of World War I.
“James Tolbert, the son of one of Post 63’s founders, loaned the museum the post’s flag, the post’s cap, charter, a rifle from the 505th Engineer Company B the company the founders served in, and a First Testament Bible belonging to another founding member Edward Morgan,” Rissler said.
The flag needed some restoration work. The framed and restored flag was returned to the museum and displayed in 2019. It was subsequently seen by a curator with the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture who requested that it be loaned to that museum for its exhibit.
“I’m glad it’s back for all to see,” said Maurice Ballard, a current member of the post. “It commemorates a place where we could gather and the camaraderie of the members.”
The post was named after Shields Green and John Anthony Copeland Jr., who were two of five African Americans in John Brown’s 1859 attempt to capture the U.S. arsenal in Harpers Ferry, which would have been the beginning of Brown’s war on slavery. Brown, Green and Copeland were tried and hanged in Charles Town.
The Jefferson County Museum is open by appointment on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Appointments can be made by calling 304-725-8628.