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Beyond Banneker

Black Mathematicians and the Paths to Excellence

Erica N. Walker

Publication Year: 2014

An in-depth look at the lives, experiences, and professional careers of Black mathematicians in the United States.

Published by: State University of New York Press

Title Page, Copyright Page, Dedication

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pp. i-vi


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pp. vii-viii

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Preface: “The Substance of Things Hoped For, the Evidence of Things Not Seen”

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pp. ix-xii

Thomas Fuller’s (1709–1789) largely unknown life stands as an unfortunate record of limits placed on a potential mathematical genius. But for his birth into a free American family, the mathematical contributions of the better-known Benjamin Banneker (1731–1806), also of African descent, would similarly be lost to history. Fuller’s anonymity and Banneker’s relative fame stand as a commentary on the obstacles and opportunities that have circumscribed Black American mathematical talent across three centuries....

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pp. xiii-xiv

I wish to acknowledge, with immense gratitude, all of the mathematicians who participated in this study and generously shared their important stories with me. Their memories, histories, and experiences were so rich that a journal article was not enough to capture their mathematical lives, and although I fear this book is also too limited a forum for their narratives, I hope they believe it does them justice. I especially thank Drs. Clarence Stephens, Evelyn Granville, Scott Williams, Sylvia Bozeman, Bill Massey, Mel Currie, Johnny...

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Chapter 1. Introduction

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pp. 1-18

Who are Black mathematicians? What are their paths to the profession? Although this book provides some answers to these questions, it is by necessity a synthesis of many stories past and present. By one estimate, there are roughly 300 living Black mathematicians in the United States. They work in colleges and universities; for federal, state, and local governments and agencies; in private and public secondary schools; and in industry. Their fields...

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Chapter 2. Kinships and Communities

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pp. 19-42

The mathematical journeys of Elbert F. Cox and Euphemia Lofton Haynes described in the introduction suggest a compelling question: how does someone who has never known a mathematician decide to become one? Wayne Leverett’s self-described trajectory—exposed to the route of becoming a mathematician in stages, first in high school through his teachers, then in college through his mentor and major professor, and so forth—is...

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Chapter 3. Navigating the Mason-Dixon Divide

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pp. 43-68

In this chapter, I use the notion of the Mason-Dixon Line—a now hypothetical but at one time very literal divide between North and South—as a metaphor for the border states in which Black mathematicians have frequently found themselves. These borders—physical, sociological, and psychological— have a significant impact on the mathematical lives of Black mathematicians. I begin with the literal geographical divide between South...

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Chapter 4. “Representing the Race”

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pp. 69-112

The notion of “representing the race” figures prominently in the educational and professional lives of many Black mathematicians. For some, “representing the race” comes as a function of their being the only Black student in their high school mathematics classroom, as the high school student referenced above notes and as mathematicians themselves recalled in the previous chapter. Black mathematicians also may be at times the only Black person...

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Chapter 5. Flying Home

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pp. 113-138

Although some attention has been paid to the success of historically Black colleges and universities in facilitating access to science careers for their graduates, the mechanisms by which Black colleges promote this success have largely gone unexplored in the literature, with a few notable exceptions (Hilliard, 1995, 2003; Scriven, 2006; Southern Education Foundation, 2005; Tucker, 1996). These mechanisms are also often viewed as static,...

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Chapter 6. Conclusions

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pp. 139-148

The mathematical life histories of Black mathematicians reveal much about how they come to know and do mathematics in multiple contexts— home, school, community, college, university, and the profession. Although these mathematicians have varied paths to the profession, they share a common social and cultural bond—they are African Americans in the United States....

Appendix A. Methodological Note

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pp. 149-152

Appendix B. Interview Protocol

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pp. 153-154


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pp. 155-158


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pp. 159-166


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pp. 167-171

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9781438452173
Print-ISBN-13: 9781438452159

Page Count: 185
Publication Year: 2014