California State University, Dominguez Hills Acquires Massive Archive of Black History

Dr. Mayme A. Clayton

California State University, Dominguez Hills has signed an agreement with the Mayme A. Clayton Library and Museum board of directors to house its collection of African American history and culture on the university’s Carson campus.

The collection contains more than 2 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 significant focus on Southern California and the American West. The university intends to begin immediately cataloging and archiving the collection so that it is more visible and accessible to the public. It will be housed in the Gerth Archives and Special Collections at the University Library.

The collection had been housed since 2006 in the former Los Angeles County Superior Courthouse in Culver City. The Mayme A. Clayton Library and Museum was originally founded by Dr. Clayton in 1975 as the Western States Black Research Center, which she had set up as a library for local residents in a renovated three-room garage at the rear of her home.

Dr. Clayton, a university librarian, collector, and historian, amassed the collection over 40 years. A native of Arkansas, Dr. Clayton earned a bachelor’s degree at the University of California, Berkeley. She held a master of library science degree from Goddard College in Plainfield, Vermont, and a Ph.D. in humanities from La Sierra University in Riverside, California. She served in library posts at the University of Southern California and the University of California, Los Angeles. Dr. Clayton died in 2006.

Thomas A. Parham, president of California State University, Dominguez Hills, stated that “we are honored to announce this historic partnership and look forward to collaborating with the MCLM board of directors to provide the public one of the most important collections of materials by and about Americans of African descent. Owing to the social justice roots of the campus and its demographic makeup, we believe that there could be no better place or steward for the collection than this university.”

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