The Mathematical Association of America
Maryland-District of Columbia-Virginia Section

African American Participation in the Section

As we all know, it has not always been easy for members of racial and ethnic minorities to attend meetings or otherwise participate in the life of any organization, including the MAA and the MD-DC-VA Section in particular. In our Section archives we found a letter from Gweneth Humphreys, a professor for more than thirty years at Randolph-Macon Woman's College in Virginia, governor of our Section, and the person for whom a prestigious Association for Women in Mathematics award is named, to Prof. D. B. Lloyd at the District of Columbia Teachers College, alerting him to a possible problem at the upcoming Spring 1958 Section meeting at Randolph-Macon. She was having trouble locating a place for the participants to eat lunch. "We can arrange for a buffet lunch (for negroes as well as whites) on campus," she writes, but they would need an accurate count very soon. She continues, "There are not many places to eat near the campus — two drug stores and the restaurant which is the one which will cater for the meal on campus. None of these will serve negroes on their premises I believe." She offers to send postcards to members and ask for lunch reservations to avoid this problem.

Section members Genevieve Knight and Bonita Saunders, in videotaped interviews, describe their early participation in Association and Section meetings and the difficulties they sometimes faced. It is easy to forget that some of our colleagues have faced discrimination and abuse during our lifetimes.

In more recent times, Section leaders have made a point of welcoming and including all of our member institutions and members. We have tried to hold meetings at historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs), and to include people of color as Section leaders and speakers at meetings. Section meetings have been held on the campuses of these colleges:

Table 1 Section meetings at HBCUs

Historically Black Colleges and UniversitiesMD-DC-VA Section Meeting
Bowie State University 1976, 2000, 2014
Coppin State University1992
University of Maryland Eastern Shore
Morgan State University1955, 1967, 2004
District of Columbia
University of the District of Columbia 1983
Howard University 1952, 1962, 1965, 1989
Hampton Institute/University1973
Norfolk State University2003
Virginia University of Lynchburg (no mathematics department?)
Virginia State University 1978, 1998, 2010
Virginia Union University

Table 2 Invited Lectures
James WhiteMathwrightFall 1998
John AlexanderSpelman College, NAMSpring 2000
Melvin CurryNational Security AgencySpring 2000
Bonita SaundersNational Institute of Standards and TechnologyFall 2001
Fern HuntNational Institute of Standards and TechnologySpring 2006
Garikai CampbellSwarthmore CollegeSpring 2007

Table 3 Section Officers and Award Winners
Reuben Drake (see letter)Secretary1976-79
Bonita SaundersTreasurer1999-2002
Dawit HaileNewsletter editor2009-2013
Genevieve KnightTeaching award winner1993
Bill HawkinsGung and Hu Award winner2013

There is obviously room for improvement. We are committed to being more inclusive, and proactively so.

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