# 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.

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