Librarian Mayme Clayton, Champion of Black History, Dead at 83
The LA Times reports the death of a native Angelino, Mayme Clayton, a librarian and esteemed collector of black Americana. She died on October 13, the day after finding out that her collection would soon be rehoused in a new library, to be named in her honor, in Culver City CA.
For four decades she prowled garage sales, flea markets, attics, used-book stores, even dumps. From these waste heaps of memory, the soft-spoken librarian rescued thousands of rare and unusual books, movies, sound recordings, photographs, letters and ephemera, much of it dating to the slavery era.
Its most glorious holding is a signed copy of the first book published by an African American: ex-slave Phillis Wheatley's "Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral" of 1773.
A bit of an eccentric, Clayton piled the Wheatley book and all her other treasures in the garage behind her humble West Adams home. She filled it to the rafters and prayed that the roof wouldn't leak, all the while maintaining faith that one day she would share its riches with the public in a more suitable setting.