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Black mathematician talks about being ‘the only one’


According to the New York Times, less than 1 percent of doctorates in math are African Americans. Edray Goins is one of them. He tells the paper that he abandoned his tenured position at a major research university last year because of the hostilities and disrespect he encountered, although he characterized them as subtle.

“I can give you instance after instance,” Dr. Goins, 46, said as he navigated the annual meeting of the nation’s mathematicians in Baltimore last month. “But even for myself I question, ‘Did it really happen that way, or am I blowing it out of proportion? Is this really about race?’”

Black Americans receive about 7 percent of the doctoral degrees awarded each year across all disciplines, but they have received just 1 percent of those granted over the last decade in mathematics. Like many who see in that disparity a large pool of untapped talent, Dr. Goins has long been preoccupied with fixing what is known as the “leaky pipeline.” Redress the racial disparities that exist at every level of math education, the logic goes, and racial diversity among those who grapple with math’s biggest problems will follow.

To that end, Dr. Goins delivers guest lectures to underrepresented middle and high school math students, organizes summer research programs for underrepresented math undergraduates, mentors underrepresented math graduate students, and heads an advocacy group that was formed in 1969 after the American Mathematical Society, the professional association for research mathematicians, rejected a proposal to address the dearth of Back and Hispanic members. For more on this story, go to this link.