The Mayme A. Clayton Library & Museum (MCLM) is home to the Mayme Agnew Clayton Collection of African-American History and Culture. The collection contains over two million rare books, films, documents, photographs, artifacts, and works of art related to the history and culture of African Americans in the United States, with a special focus on Southern California and the American West. The collection is one of the most important collections chronicling the history and culture of Americans of African descent in the United States of America.
Mayme A. Clayton, Ph.D. (1923-2006) founded MCLM in 1975 as the Western States Black Research Center (WSBRC). Dr. Clayton, a university librarian, collector, and historian, believed that preserving and sharing the scattered and often neglected history of Americans of African descent was vitally important for current and future generations. Working independently for over 40 years, Dr. Clayton meticulously amassed a collection characterized as "one of the finest collections of African-American literature, manuscripts, films, and ephemera in private hands."
The collection was initially housed in a renovated three-room garage at the rear of Dr. Clayton's home, located in the Los Angeles community of West Adams. The garage was set up as a library for local adults and children, with tables and chairs, bookshelves, and a card catalog. By 2002, however, many of the materials suffered damage due to inadequate storage and lack of proper environmental controls. As a result, the public had less access to the materials, and the collection was in danger of being irreparably ruined.
A campaign to rescue, relocate, inventory, catalog, and share the collection was organized in 2002 by Dr. Mayme Clayton's eldest son, Avery Clayton (1947-2009), an artist and retired educator. As the founding Executive Director of the Mayme A. Clayton Library and Museum, Avery Clayton labored to ensure that his mother's collection would have a permanent home. On October 13, 2006 Dr. Mayme Clayton passed away, just hours after a press conference announcing the establishment of a new home for the collection--the former Los Angeles County Superior Courthouse located in Culver City. In keeping with Dr. Clayton's wishes her collection was bequeathed to Western States Black Research Center, and in 2007 the name of the organization was changed to the Mayme A. Clayton Library and Museum, in honor of her contributions and legacy.