• Michelle Smith

Amazing Melanated Mommies: 18

Updated: Apr 18, 2019

While African American history is too extraordinary to be summed up in a year, let alone a month, we will be celebrating phenomenal women who changed the world as we see it now all while raising children. If they can do it, so can we. Lets do it!!!

Mayme Agnew Clayton was a librarian and the founder, president and leader of the Western States Black Research and Education Center, the largest privately held collection of African American historical materials in the world. Born in Van Buren, Arkansas Clayton was raised to appreciate African American accomplishments. As the only Black business owner in Van Buren, Arkansas during that time, Mayme’s father and mother found it very important to expose their children to their history, instilling a sense of pride. Clayton first attended Lincoln University of Missouri before transferring to University of California, Berkeley, where she received a B.A. She began her career at USC in 1952, until she became a law librarian for UCLA in 1957. In 1969 she helped establish the university’s African-American Studies Center Library, and began to buy out-of-print works by authors from the Harlem Renaissance. Clayton single handedly, with her own resources collected more than 30,000 rare and out of print books that contributed to her museum. The museum’s collection is considered one of the most important for African-American materials and consists of 3.5 million items, according to UCLA Magazine. Items such as a signed copy of Phillis Wheatly’s Poems on the Various Subjects, Religious and Moral from 1773, and a handwritten letter by Booker T. Washington are just a couple of the momentous items that the museum holds. Mayme also went on to earn her PhD in Humanities from La Sierra University in 1985. She managed such great accomplishments while also being a wife and mother to three sons. Dr. Mayme Clayton believed "children should know that black people have done great things” and she dedicated 40 years of her life to make it so. Salute Dr. Mayme Clayton!

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