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Mayme Clayton Library and Museum Could be Leaving Culver City

Image is an isle in a library lit by Edison bulbs.  Martin Feinberg, Realtor, was sad to learn that Culver City’s Mayme Clayton Library and Museum might be forced to close unless it can come to an arrangement with Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley Thomas.  Thomas wants to turn the landmark into a constituency center.

The Mayme Clayton Library and Museum received notice in October that its lease would not be renewed.   Executive director of the Mayme Clayton Library and Museum, Lloyd Clayton, would like the museum to remain in Culver City.  However, he is investigating options with other universities that have communicated an interest in the Museum.  The building currently houses more than two million African American books, films, documents, and other artifacts.

Clayton stated, “I grew up with this collection.  This was my mother’s collection, which was housed in her garage in the West Adams district many years ago. For 45 years, she campaigned and tried to get this collection housed someplace. It wasn’t until she met with Culver City that she finally found a place willing to house her artifacts.”

Culver City Councilman Daniel Lee wants the library to remain in the city he represents, saying the museum is of great cultural significance.

“We’ve developed a cultural corridor in Culver City which includes the Wende Museum, the Culver City Historical Society, and the Mayme Clayton,” Lee said. “This is a central part of it and it’s the largest private collection of African American art and memorabilia west of the Mississippi and that’s something Culver City can be proud of.”

Tom Camarella, a Culver City resident, also agrees that losing the Mayme Clayton Library and Museum would be a great loss to the Culver City Real Estate area.

“The best possible position would be to stay here or move to West L.A. because at least that’s still in the neighborhood because we want school kids to come to it,” Camarella said. “Most kids don’t understand this history but older people like myself, we’ve lived through it.”

The Mayme Clayton Library and Museum was founded in 1975 as the Western States Black Research Center by Dr. Mayme Clayton, a university librarian, collector, and historian.  She believed that preserving and sharing the history of Americans of African descent was important for current and future generations.

Image is a historical picture of an African American family packing up a car, likely in the 40s or 50s.Martin Feinberg, Culver City Realtor, was impressed to learn that Dr. Clayton independently amassed a collection characterized as “one of the finest collections of African-American literature, manuscripts, films, and ephemera in private hands” over more than 40 years.

“My mother had a vision that this history was going to be lost,” Clayton said. “I remember when I was growing up in the 60s, African American history wasn’t even mentioned except in a derogatory way in certain books using terms like “Sambo” and things like that. So we want to update and correct that, my mother especially wanted to do that because she grew up during the Jim Crow era and she witnessed what segregation had done and she, in her own way, wanted to put a stop to that.”