Sweet Auburn Stories producer and self-described novice historian Royce Bable coaxed civil rights icon Xernona Clayton into regaling an invitation-only audience with her humor, grace and fashion flair at an event hosted by the Carter Center and Dutch Consulate of Atlanta on Feb. 28, 2024.

Bable's YouTube storytelling series began in 2019 and focuses on Black pioneers. Over the past five years, the Atlanta-based Howard University alum has featured legendary activists and entrepreneurs from Herchelle Sullivan Challenor and Roslyn Pope to Mack Wilbourn and Lonnie Johnson.

This year he and Clayton, 93, sat for a wide-ranging interview about her Oklahoma childhood, stint in Hollywood, prominence in the American civil rights movement of the 1960s and long media career.

The chat began with an icebreaker: Bable played a word game with Clayton to trigger memories of her life story. The first word: Jet.

That meant Jet magazine, for whom her husband, journalist Ed Clayton, worked in the early 1960s.

“I married the editor and asked him not to write about me,” she laughed. “People used to think by inviting me to a party, they’d end up in [the pages] of Jet. But that was the wrong thing, it was because of me, you wouldn't be in Jet.”

But while living in California she hosted glamorous parties at the homes of movie stars like Elizabeth Taylor and Gregory Peck to raise money for the civil rights movement.

From there, Bable reviewed Clayton’s history, her life as a twin growing up as the daughter of a pastor and a family involved in the Bureau of Indian Affairs (Native American) in Muskogee, Okla., in the 1930s and 1940s. She went to Tennessee State University and the University of Chicago, and while there, worked for the Urban League and succeeded in instigating the desegregation of the workforce at her favorite department store, Marshall Fields.

Then in Hollywood, her fundraising caught the attention of the King family, with her husband Ed introducing her to Martin and Coretta Scott King, who immediately asked her to move to Atlanta to help with the civil rights movement.

“Dr. King said, ‘If you'll agree to move I'll see that you have a new car, a maid, a dog and a nice salary,’” Clayton told the audience. “How'd the dog get in it?” she deadpanned.

“And guess what? I found out Dr. King, this minister, didn't always tell the truth. I ended up moving to Atlanta and got none of that,” she laughed.

In addition to working with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference to desegregate Atlanta hospitals, she met Calvin Craig, the Grand Dragon of the Georgia Ku Klux Klan, through a Model Cities program.

Later, after filling in for Atlanta Constitution editor Ralph McGill on a TV special, she went on to became the first Black person to have their own show in the South, and famously interviewed Craig on The Xernona Clayton Show, which aired for seven seasons on WAGA-TV.

She caught the attention of Ted Turner and became one of highest-ranking female employees at Turner Broadcasting, founding the Trumpet Awards.

And in 2023, Xernona Clayton became the only woman to have an Atlanta street plaza with a statue named after her.

Bable wrapped up the session with a question about artificial intelligence. He told Clayton he had asked Chat GPT to create a tagline for her as if she were a cast member of the Real Housewives of Atlanta. The crowd roared with laughter, with Clayton quipping, "Do I have to take my clothes off?"

AI's answer for Clayton's tagline?

"I don't just break glass ceilings, I shatter them with style."

Watch the video below to view the conversation.