About the Project

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Our project mission is to inspire institutional, regional, and national reform related to representation and the educational experiences of Black Americans in the mathematical sciences.

stock photo of black female mathematician in front of chalkboard with text: celebrating black mathematicians

Nearly 200 mathematicians have earned degrees from the Department of Mathematics at The Ohio State University who identify as Black.

Former graduates have gone on to become prolific researchers, high school teachers, book authors, economists, department chairs, lawyers, OSU personnel, and university presidents.

Many of these pioneers have stories intimately linked with the history of Ohio State, the city of Columbus, and the state of Ohio, yet nearly all remain “hidden figures.”

About Hidden Figures Revealed

This project aims is the first comprehensive historical study of Black mathematicians at a single US institution. 

Our project addresses racial and cultural disparities in STEM, particularly, the dearth of Black Americans in the mathematical sciences. This research tackles the national challenge of increasing representation in mathematics, which is the gateway to all of STEM. We aim to increase representation of underrepresented minorities in STEM through a narrative-based case study on the history of Black mathematicians at The Ohio State University.

While previous studies have focused on the experiences of individual mathematicians, we also focus on the role that the institution plays in their narratives--specifically, we consider what role Ohio State has played historically in the development of Black mathematical talent.

This approach will ultimately provide direct insight to inform strategies to increase the representation of underrepresented students in the mathematical sciences at The Ohio State University and other institutions across the country.

Access to quality educational experiences and professional opportunities in mathematics is a social justice issue.

Black people are underrepresented in the mathematical sciences at all levels of US higher education.

Presently, there are only a dozen tenure-track Black professors of mathematics at the top 50 research institutions across the United States.

This lack of representation within academe directly affects representation in careers related to the mathematical sciences.

Our project aims to create better opportunities for students, faculty, and the public at large to learn about the history of Black mathematicians.

We use the stories and knowledge from our research to create presentations, lesson plans, and other educational resources that will spread the word about these incredible mathematicians.

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We want to increase representation of Black mathematicians to the general public, as well as understand the lack of Black mathematicians in academic spaces.

By interviewing black alumni from we seek to identify specific and common institutional resources, personnel, or events that have impacted the journeys of Black persons profiled in our case study. The research from the case study will be used to create (1) project website and (2) educational learning materials related to the study for our regional and national community partners.

Our local partnership with National Afro-American Museum and Cultural Center (NAAMCC) of the Ohio History Connection (OHC) will improve exposure to stories and educational resources to underrepresented persons in STEM in the state of Ohio, while our partnership with the Math Alliance will direct our research to Departments of Mathematical Sciences across the country.


Featured Black Math Alumni


Thyrsa Frazier Svager, PhD (OSU 1965)

1st Black woman to earn a PhD in Math from Ohio State

Dr. Thyrsa Frazier Svager was the 1st Black female to earn a PhD in mathematics from The Ohio State University and the 10th African-American woman in the United States to earn this degree.

Dr. Svager was born in 1930 and was a native of Wilberforce, Ohio. She graduated in 1947 from the Wilberforce University Preparatory Academy at the young age of 15. Afterward, attended Antioch College in Yellow Springs Ohio and graduated with a Bachelor 1951. After completing her undergraduate studies she earned a master’s degree and a doctorate in mathematics at The Ohio State University in Columbus in 1965. 

She served as a statistical analyst at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, and as an instructor at Texas Southern University in Houston. From 1954 up until 1993, she spent the majority of her career at Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio where she was a Professor of Mathematics and an administrator, serving in roles as a Dean, Provost, and Interim President. 


Thyrsa Frazier Svager headshot in black and white

Project Funding

Our project was awarded $25,000 as an inaugural recipient of the Seed Fund for Racial Justice sponsored by the Office of Research at The Ohio State University. We are grateful for their support of this important initiative to use Black math stories and history to address racial justice in mathematics.

Our project received $25,000 in matching funds from the Global Arts and Humanities Discovery Theme at The Ohio State University. Our project uses stories to connect the public with Black mathematicians, and we are grateful for their support of our initiative to utilize this form of art to address racial justice in mathematics.

The PI acknowledges support from National Science Foundation Mathematical and Physical Sciences Ascending Fellowship Award #2138110. This support is utilized for outreach activities related to the Hidden Figures Revealed project.

Community Partners

Our primary community partner is the National Afro-American Museum and Cultural Center (NAAMCC) of the Ohio History Connection, which is located in Wilberforce, Ohio. The NAAMCC will use various divisions within the OHC during the project period to (1) plan and implement community programming, and (2) support the development of teacher resources for Central Ohio teachers.

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Our project has the in-kind support of the National Math Alliance, an organization that works to increase the numbers of students from traditionally underrepresented groups earning doctoral degrees in the mathematical sciences through a national mentoring network that includes over 350 institutions across the country.

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