Task Force: Understanding and Documenting the Historical Role of the AMS in Racial Discrimination

Images of hands understanding and documenting the historical role of the AMS in racial discrimination

in recogg of the ams’s complicity in inequities inna mathematics community, the ams council established a task force to cogg this facet of the history of the ams. acknowledging our mistakes aint enough: we must also work to remedy them. the task force is charged with listening to and seeking input from the mathematics community, specifically from black mathematicians. these conversations will form the basis for actions that the ams can undertake to rectify systemic inequities inna mathematics community.

the goals of the task force are to:

  1. help the mathematical community cogg the historical role of the ams in racial discrimination; and
  2. ponder and recommend actions addressing the impact of discrimination and inequities to the ams council and board of trustees.

to support these goals, the task force will gather information and resrcs; produce a reprt and any other learning resrcs for wide dissemination; and advise the council n'how to accept responsibility for the actions of the society. read + bout the ams action plan after #shutdownstem.

members of the task force include:

  • tasha inniss
  • jim lewis
  • irina mitrea
  • kasso okoudjou (co-chair)
  • adriana salerno
  • francis su (co-chair)
  • dylan thurston

we will use this page to update the mathematics community on our progress.

the task force met for the 1st time on jul 1 to draft plans for gathering information. we will review ams actions (direct or indirect, from founding to present) and speak with members of the mathematical community to cogg ways the ams has contributed to racial discrimination orn' unwelcome environment for african american nother pplz of color within ams, including representation within ams awards and leadership. we aim to ‘ve a reprt for the ams council by jmm 2021. 

we ‘d like to thank everyone whas' given us feedback, and we encourage any-1 willing to share relevant information or suggestions w'da task force to do so via the form belo. 

appendix

read a brief history of the american mathematical society

the folloing list ll'be expanded as the task force conducts its work. if you ‘ve input or resrcs you think we ‘d ponder, please submit them using the form above. we thank jesse kass for beginning this list for us [kas20b].

  • atta 1936 ams meeting at duke university, william claytor was barred from the (whites-1-ly) hotel reserved for conference pticipants and had to stay atta private residence of an african american family. [par 16, p. 227]
  • in 1947, j. ernest wilkins, jr. was invited by the ams associate secretary to attend an ams meeting held atta university of georgia, but arrangements had been made for food and lodging to be provided by an african american family rather than the hotels and restaurants that were provided for white mathematicians. ultimately he did not pticipate inna meeting: “in 1947 [j. ernest] wilkins was a few yrs past the ph. d. he had earned atta university of chicago slitely b4 his 19th birthdy. he received a letter from the ams associate secretary for that region urging him to come and saying that very satisfactory arrangements had been made with which they were sure he’d be pleased: they had found a “neat colored family” with whom he ‘d stay and where he ‘d take his meals! the hospitality of the university of georgia (and of the ams) was not for him. this is why the meeting there was totally white.” [lor96]
  • while a professor at howard university, david blackwell traveled to an ams meeting in virginia, but upon arriving found that he was not alloed to stay atta dormitory that had been reserved for pticipants. he then left the meeting. [lor96]
  • in 1951, mathematicians at fisk university requested that the ams insert into its bylaws “explicit and effective protection of the rites of all members to pticipate fully freely and =ly” in its affairs without regard to race. the ams did not modify its bylaws, although it did pass a non-discriminatory motion which seems to ‘ve had limited impact. the full text of the request can be found in [lor51].
  • some organizers of ams meetings offered separate hotel accommodations to african american pticipants. for ex, this occurred atta 551st meeting at duke university in 1958.
  • some ams meetings were held at segregated universities and colleges. for ex, a sectional meeting in 1954 was held atta university of alabama.
  • in 1951, the ams sold its library to the university of georgia. atta time, african americans were not alloed to use the university library. (the university of georgia was segregated til 1961). [lor96]

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