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

In recognition of the AMS's complicity in inequities in the mathematics community, the AMS Council established a task force to understand this facet of the history of the AMS. Acknowledging our mistakes is not 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 in the mathematics community.

The goals of the Task Force are to:

  1. help the mathematical community understand the historical role of the AMS in racial discrimination; and
  2. consider 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 resources; produce a report and any other learning resources for wide dissemination; and advise the Council on how to accept responsibility for the actions of the Society. Read more about 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

The Task Force met for the first time on July 1, 2020 to draft plans for gathering information and has met weekly since then. We set out to review AMS actions (direct or indirect, from founding to present) and speak with members of the mathematical community to understand ways the AMS has contributed to racial discrimination or an unwelcome environment for African Americans and other people of color within AMS, including representation within AMS awards and leadership. We aim to deliver a report for the AMS Council and to present our findings to the community at JMM 2021.

In July and August 2020,

  • The Task Force interviewed:
    • mathematicians at various career stages, different ethnic and racial backgrounds, and institution types.
    • historians of mathematics
    • AMS staff and members of governance who are familiar with AMS history.
  • We gathered data and studied articles, reports, and other resources that inform us about the history of racism in mathematics in general and in AMS in particular.
  • In our weekly meetings, we compared notes, shared what we had learned, and identified general themes we encountered.

As the Task Force identified common themes, we identified additional questions for members of our mathematics community. We invite you to answer those questions at this questionnaire. All responses will be confidential, to be reviewed only by the Task Force, and shared in our report only in aggregate. You need not provide identifying information.

We would like to thank everyone who has given us feedback, and we encourage anyone willing to share relevant information or suggestions with the Task Force to respond to the questionnaire or send an email to understanding-history@ams.org.