Skip to main content

Speaker Dr. Dwight A. Williams II: Generations of Black Mathematicians

Speaker: Dr. Dwight A. Williams, Iowa State University

Title: Generations of Black Mathematicians

Abstract:

Consider the title of Saunders MacLane's well-referenced book Cate-
gories for the Working Mathematician. Now let us ask ourselves who gets to be a
mathematician, let alone a \working mathematician". As we answer the question,
we recall the history of two powerful bodies of mathematicians within the United
States from the perspective of Black mathematicians:
The American Mathematical Society (AMS) and the Mathematical Association of
America (MAA) have an ongoing record of dismissing, ignoring, and obstructing
the pathways of Black mathematicians at all stages of their careers. Changes in
leadership and committee membership have played a role in sketching new policies,
yet the door of systemic change is often shut closed in the face of us all.
For many, here is where the story of the National Association of Mathematicians
(NAM) begins (in 1969) with its 17 founders attempting to realize a portion of the
benets drawn from meeting along lines of professional interest. Moreover, NAM
declares that mathematical excellence is for all, especially in their mission to develop
students living in the intersection of mathematics and minoritized identities.
So let us return to the original question with a discussion including the generations
of Black mathematicians preceding NAM, the many contributors who forwarded
NAM into today, and the expanding network of people active in a welcoming NAM
community. Still, the question does not rest: Truly, who is a mathematician? Each
answer is not without at least a quantum of questioning, reasons for NAM to persist
and a call to thrive.

To attend virtually, send a request to Dr. Tim McEldowney.