African American Archivist’s Dream Must Not Be Deferred November 30, 2009 – Tags: African American History, Archives, Avery Clayton, books, Harlem Renaissance, Langston Hughes, Libraries, Mayme A. Clayton, Mayme A. Clayton Library
(Photo by Phillip Scott Andrews, AP)
As of Avery Clayton’s untimely death this week, only about one-fifth of the collection has been archived, according to Leah M. Kerr, director of the Clayton Library. “It’s everybody’s hope that we will be able to continue the work,” she said. Mr. Clayton eloquently explained the reasons behind his family’s efforts to preserve the long neglected history of African Americans to The New York Times in 2006: “One of the things that culture does is that it works like a family. If you know you come from a good family, it enables you to go out into the world, no matter what happens to you, and do O.K. It is the same thing with culture: If you know you come from a great people, it gives you that same feeling.”
Avery Clayton’s original dream was that his mother would see a library named for her, holding her amazing collection, “in her lifetime.” That did not come to pass. Now Mr. Clayton’s death means that though he accomplished the minor miracle of finding a home for the Mayme A. Clayton Library, he will never see public benefit from his unfailing devotion to her legacy.
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore–
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over–
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?