Abstract / Synopsis

A recent controversy involving the Notices of the American Mathematical Society and questions of politics, racism, and the appropriate role of a professional mathematical organization began with a comparison to events the American Mathematical Society confronted in 1950. A close look at the AMS’s own archives for that period shows that the controversies that vexed the society around 1950 do indeed resonate strongly with those of today, but not in the ways recently suggested. Then, as now, the AMS confronted allegations of political and viewpoint discrimination in universities, the challenges of structural racism in American education and society, and the proper place of the AMS as a leading national organization in an international community. Then, as now, mathematicians actively debated how their membership in a professional community related to timely matters of social, political, and racial justice. Among the mid-century controversy’s legacies is the Notices itself, created in part out of dissatisfaction with communication channels for involving members in political decisions.



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