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Mon, 03.17.1947

Avery Clayton, Historian, and Collector born

Avery Clayton

*Avery Clayton was born on this date in 1947. He was a Black Educator, Artist, Entrepreneur, and Historian.

Clayton was born in Los Angeles, California, to Mayme and Andrew Clayton. His mother was a librarian, and his father owned a barbershop. He attended Los Angeles area schools and had two brothers, Renai and Lloyd Clayton. After serving in the Vietnam War, he returned to Los Angeles, where he studied art at Los Angeles City College and the UCLA School of Fine Arts.

Clayton achieved local prominence for his series of historical lithographs of African American figures, which include portraits of Martin Luther King Jr., which he developed for the 1982 Southern Christian Leadership Conference MLK dinner, Dorothy Dandridge, George Washington Carver, and Josephine Baker.  During the 1980s, Clayton was tabbed to coordinate numerous art shows and exhibits for local African American churches and organizations. In 1984, Clayton was selected by the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee to create a community “Walk of Fame” sidewalk project in Exposition Park. His artwork could be found in many prominent private collections and in local art shows and exhibits.

A former counselor with the Pasadena Unified School District and retired art instructor, Clayton owned two art galleries, one on Crenshaw Boulevard and the other on 7th Avenue.  He also created a line of African American greeting cards sold at the California African American Museum.

He was the eldest son of a librarian and black history historian Mayme A. Clayton.   For over 40 years, she prowled bookstores and garage sales to amass one of the country's largest collections of black history memorabilia.  The collection reportedly rivaled that of New York’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture and had been labeled by some scholars as one of the most important of its kind.  Carrying on the work of his mother to preserve and promote the importance of Black history to the community, Clayton worked to bring the collection to the public.

Before his mother’s death in 2006, he secured a permanent home for the 20,000-plus-piece collection at 4130 Overland Ave. in Culver City and had worked to raise funds to open the library for the past three years to the public. As president of the Western States Black Research Center, Clayton worked closely with his mother to bring African American history to the forefront. The Western States Black Resource Center hosted numerous Black History Month events, including the popular “Black Talkies on Parade,” a film festival featuring films made by blacks for black audiences.  Earlier in 2009, Clayton was the keynote speaker at the Discover Your Roots conference, where he exhibited some artifacts.

Avery Clayton Died on Thanksgiving Day, 2009, while entertaining guests at his home.

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