The Below is An Excerpt from the Book, Change Is Possible, written by Patricia C Kenschaft and published by the American Mathematical Society in October 2005:
President MacLane sent letters to "54 people, including the sectional officers and governors from the regions most directly affected and a number of other members of the Association chosen to represent differing opinions on this topic." Three months later he had 32 replies. He reported that, "About 20 replies said in essence, ‘I heartily approve the resolution passed by the Board of Governors at its September meeting.'" Some pointed out that other organizations have opened to "negroes" and several attended. Another told about an interracial professional meeting in an office conference room with lunches sent in.
Others were not so encouraging. "When a section meets at an institution, the section is not the host, but is a guest. A guest is obligated to work for the welfare of the host as long as he is a guest." Slightly more helpful was another Southerner who wrote, "…we might consider the matter of discontinuing the social functions and holding only meetings to which anyone could be admitted. Several others suggested canceling the banquet, but one called this idea "a retreat," writing, "I… have lived here all my past life, and all my teaching has been in this state. I am eager that we go forward." President MacLane concluded his report with a quote of a "distinguished Southern mathematician." "I feel that such discrimination should end, and that the way to stop it is just to stop."
Later that winter President MacLane sent a letter to the section officers saying that he had determined that he had determined it was possible "to conduct the scientific, business, and social affairs of the Association without discrimination as to race, creed, or color" but that this would require "careful planning in advance and consultation with the host institution in question." MAA Secretary-Treasurer Harry Gehman sent a copy of this report to all predominantly "Negro" colleges. In another December 1951 letter Lorch suggested interracial planning. The result of all this activity is that apparently no African Americans attended any Southeast Section meetings in the remainder of the 1950's.
The next known attempt was in April 1960 by Lonnie Cross (now Abdulalim Shabazz), who was then chair of the mathematics department at Atlanta University. He was scheduled to present a paper at 3:24 PM. Earlier that afternoon he arrived at the Section meeting at the University of South Carolina in Columbia with a colleague, Dr Subhash C Saxena of New Delhi, India, and two graduate students, one of whom was "so-called white." When the group presented confirmed reservations at the Wade Hampton Hotel, they were told to "wait a minute" while their rooms were made ready. About a half hour later an assistant manager told them that the Wade Hampton would honor only the reservation of the "white" man, but would help the others get reservations in the Nylon Hotel (a colored hotel) some distance away.
"Such arrangements are unsatisfactory to us," responded Cross, and sought out the local MAA officers. They corroborated the manager's statement that they could attend the sessions of the meeting, but not any social event. C. L. Seebeck, Secretary-Treasurer of the Southeast Section added, "We regret that South Carolina's law prevents your full participation in our meeting. We want you to attend and participate to the extent you can. About 90% of the membership feels as you do and is with you, but times are such that they cannot openly say so."
The group from Atlanta University left. As they did so, Cross abandoned his plans to present a paper and stated, "In view of the fact that the Southeast Section of the Association is operating contrary to the enunciated national policy…, we cannot remain at this meeting. We would be less than human beings to do so… we ask you, Professor Seebeck… to explain to those at this meeting our reasons for leaving… As a member of the Association, I shall continue to do all I can to make the policy of the national body a reality in the Southeast Section."
He then wrote a press release that was highly quoted in the national African American press. Forty-four years later he observed, "We didn't want that kind of attention. We just went to give a paper and have a good weekend." He said he hadn't "a clue" about what would happen until he arrived. "Of course, I knew that the United States was a white supremacist country, but I had no idea this kind of activity was going on in the MAA and AMS." That concluded his attempt to participate for decades. "Our appetites for the Southeast Section was destroyed when we had to walk out of that meeting."
Abdulalim A. Shabazz (1927-) was born Lonnie Cross in Bessemer, Alabama. He grew up in Alabama, but when he was fourteen, he went to Washington, DC, in search of a better education. For a while he lived with his grandmother, both of them in one room in a rooming house sharing a bathroom and kitchen with others. When he turned sixteen, he obtained working papers and an evening job as a clerk at the United States Department of War. Now able to support himself, he began living alone "with the help of God." Another clerk asked him to meet her husband. After he did, they invited him to live with them as an older brother to their two sons and a daughter. He paid a small rent, but it was a much more satisfactory arrangement than living alone.
After graduating from the fabled public Dunbar High School, he won a scholarship to Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, where he earned an A.B. in mathematics and chemistry in 1949 in spite of the fact that he was drafted into and served honorably in the United States Army Airforce for one year. Two years later he received an M.S. in mathematics from M.I.T. After working a year and a half as an assistant mathematician in the Cornell Aeronautical laboratory in Buffalo, NY, in 1953 he began working toward a doctorate at Cornell. In the summer of 1954 he saw an ad for which he was eminently qualified, but when he arrived, they took one look at him and told him the job was taken. "That convinced me I had to get that piece of paper called a Ph.D." He worked hard the next year, and in 1955 was awarded a Ph.D.
in mathematics from Cornell University.
After graduation, he felt called to social change, and took a job in a rug cleaning business. However, his body was so injured after the very first day that he decided to go back to mathematics. He saw an advertisement for a Research Mathematician and phoned the given number. "Come on down," was the response. They were clearly shocked to see him, but they liked his credentials, so they offered him the advertised job with the Metals Research Laboratory of the Electro Metallurgical Company in Niagara Falls. While he was there, he didn't realize they were doing nuclear research and engaged in making nuclear weapons; the scientists would pose problems and he would set them up in the form of mathematical equations.
In the fall of 1956 he left to join the faculty at Tuskegee Institute.
In 1957 he became chair of the mathematics department at Atlanta University. It was only a graduate school at that time, and there were only two students in mathematics. "During the six-year period 1957-63, when I was chairman of the department, 109 students graduated with master's degrees in mathematics," Shabazz later wrote. "More than a third of them went on to earn Ph.D. degrees in mathematics or mathematics education. Many of them went on to produce students who earned Ph.D.s in mathematics. Now it is estimated that nearly 50 percent of the roughly 200 African-American mathematicians in the U.S. resulted either directly or indirectly from Atlanta University's 109 master's degree recipients between 1957 and 1963."
In 1961 Shabazz became a Muslim, changed his name, and became politically active. He was accused by the Atlanta University president of being a Communist, and in 1963 left the university.
He spent twelve years in Washington, DC, as the Director of Education of the University of Islam #4, and then taught in Chicago, Detroit, and Mecca, Saudi Arabia.
Meanwhile, he married, had two sons and a daughter, raised them with his wife, and divorced. He then adopted two Ethiopian boys whom he raised alone. Both are now mathematicians.
In 1986 he returned to what would soon become Clark Atlanta University, following a merger of Atlanta University and Clark College. The math department was in terrible shape; many students were considered incapable of doing even basic mathematics. He insisted that the undergraduate department offer higher level mathematics courses. When his colleagues said they weren't ready, Shabazz responded, "Give me the very worst ones you have, and I'll show you that they can be taught." He again served as Chair from 1990 to 1995. In 1990 only 35 undergraduates were majoring with math, but by 1992, there were 155 undergraduate mathematics majors.
No mathematics BA/BS degrees were granted in 1990 and only one MS degree, but in 1995 there were 23 BA/BS degrees and 23 MS degrees granted in mathematics.
From 1997 to 2000 he was chair of the Mathematics and Computer Science Department at Lincoln University, his alma mater. During his first year as chair, he led a compete revision of the mathematics curriculum and established a 4-year BS/MS degrees program in mathematics. That was the first time in the 144-year history of the university that a higher degree in any science had been offered. An interview is posted on the web that he gave at the time he was dismissed from the position of chair, apparently because he strongly advocated hiring more blacks, although other reasons were alleged. Ironically, the dismissal took place while he was in Washington accepting National Mentor Award from President Clinton.
 He has received several other outstanding honors from a variety of sources, including the "Mentor Award" of 1992 from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, NAM's Distinguished Service Award in 1994, and the Lifetime Achievement Award of the African American Educators of California. He continues as Distinguished Professor of Mathematics at Lincoln University at the age of 77.
In 2004 he remembers the 1954 Supreme Court decision requiring racially integrated schools with regret, a regret he always felt even then. "The majority population got the entire control of our education. Rather than equalize the support, they got rid of our teachers and educational administrators. Before 1954 all the teachers and administrators in our Southern schools were colored - and usually as well an "assistant superintendent" who supervised our schools. Now only six percent of the teachers nationwide are African American and 85 percent are European American. Our children are at the mercy of teachers who don't understand them and aren't inclined to teach all of them properly. Especially our young men are affected; black boys are feared by their non-black teachers."
ibid. 14-16, reprinting the report of President Saunders MacLane to the Board of Governors of December 28, 1951.
"Atlanta University Professors and a Graduate Student Leave
South Carolina Mathematics Meeting in Protest of Discrimination,"
press release issued by the Department of Mathematics,
Atlanta University, Georgia, April 4, 1960,
provided by Abdulalim Shabazz on 10/27/04.
Abdulalim Shabazz, telephone conversation, 10/27/04.
Paul Cody, "Affecting Eternity: Abdulalim Abullah Shabazz, Ph.D. '55," Cornell Magazine, April 1994, p. 62.
Abdulalim Shabazz, telephone conversation, October 27, 2004.