The mission of the Mayme A. Clayton Library & Museum (MCLM), according to its website, is “to collect, preserve, exhibit and celebrate the unique history and cultural heritage of Americans of African descent.” It was founded by Dr. Mayme Clayton in 1972 as the Western States Black Research and Education Center (WSBREC). Its purpose, according to her interview on the documentary series, The History Makers, was that “…children would know that Black people have done great things.”
The WSBREC, which contained the largest private collection of African-American historical materials in the world, was renamed in 2007 the “Mayme A. Clayton Library & Museum” (MCLM) in her honor. The vision of the library and museum is “to serve as a world-class cultural institution dedicated to educating audiences about the legacy of African and African-American creativity, genius and resilience. To this end, MCLM seeks to facilitate an ongoing discussion about the diversity of the American experience and to use its collection as an instrument of friendship and healing, bringing people together through interconnected cultural heritage.”
The collection of Mayme Clayton is considered, according to UCLA Magazine, to be “one of the most important collections of African-American materials and consists of 3.5 million items”. It includes more than 75,000 photographs, almost 10,000 sound recordings and 30,000 out-of-print, rare and first edition books by and about Blacks, including works of Paul Laurence Dunbar, Zora Neale Hurston and Langston Hughes. Its most valuable piece is the only known signed copy of Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral. Composed by Phillis Wheatley in 1773, it is the first book of poetry published by an African American woman in the United States.