CSUDH Should Bring Mayme Clayton’s Life Work Herecsudhbulletin September 24, 2019 0 COMMENTS
By Robin Renay Bolton
I have been in school most of my life. I’ve read books about the Harlem Renaissance. I’ve watched documentaries about the Civil Rights Movement.
I’ve read, seen and heard so much about Black history.
But I had never heard of Mayme Clayton. Nor had I had heard of her collection, which she accumulated over her lifetime of collecting books,
news clippings and other artifacts important to the African American experience.
What began as a passion project grew over 45 years into a
collection of more than two million items, including letters written by
Marcus Garvey and Josephine Baker, vintage copies of Ebony and Jet magazines and more than 300,000 rare and out-of-print magazines.
I had never heard of it until, while looking for a story to write for this first issue of the Bulletin, I typed CSUDH into Google and clicked on the news tag. I saw a story and read that last fall the Mayme A. Clayton Library and
Museum had been booted from its home in Culver City. It’s being housed temporarily at West Los Angeles City College, but there is no way for students or the general public to see the collection.
According to a story posted Aug. 22 in the Culver City Observer, Lloyd
Clayton, Mayme’s son, said that talks for bringing the collection to “Cal State Dominguez Hills [are] still on the table.”
What better location for a collection of African American history than a
university that is a part of that history and, just as important, will help shape future history?
This school is located in Carson and was put here as a response to the Watts Rebellion. We have the highest percentage of Black students, and the greatest number, in the CSU. The Mervyn M. Dymally Institute, an African American think tank, is on the fifth floor of the library. And our library rocks. Have you ever been on the fifth floor, where the special collections are housed? It’s plush!
And we have more than 200 special collections, including those
that chronicle Japanese Americans, women workers, and the histories of
the South Bay and Compton.
I don’t know how this kind of thing, works. I’m sure it’s complicated. And
maybe there’s no room in our library, or anywhere else on this campus, for
a collection the size of Mayme’s.
But I do know I’m not the only one who would welcome its arrival.
Shanice Carter, a third-year Africana Studies major at CSUDH, considers herself a Black history buff. She says her love for learning about her
roots is what inspired her to choose her major, but she admits Clayton’s
work is a mystery to her.
“I’ve never heard of her or her museum,” said Carter. “But it’s really
fascinating there’s a chance of something so rich in history would call our
Carter mused if the collection came to CSUDH it would be beneficial for
not only the Africana Studies Department but the campus as a whole.
If CSUDH were to acquire the MCLM, not only would it gain an important piece of history, it would allow students who would never otherwise have heard about it, or the history it represents, the chance to discover it.
But even if it doesn’t come to CSUDH, if you’re reading these words, you have now officially heard of Mayme Clayton and the work she spent her life on. So spread the word. It’s the kind of history you don’t see on TV, or in most textbooks. The kind of history it takes work to acquire and preserve; the kind of history it takes appreciation and respect to survive.