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Social Media's Role in Lifting Up "For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood…and the Rest of Y'all Too" (University Press Week 2017)

Chris Emdin - For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood
Christopher Emdin speaking at TEDxNYED. Photo credit: Wayne K. Lin.


University Press Week runs each year in November and was first established by President Jimmy Carter in 1978 to recognize “the impact, both here and abroad, of American university presses on culture and scholarship." This year’s theme is “#LookItUp: Knowledge Matters” celebrating the value of knowledge and expertise that University Presses bring to the world. As a member of the Association of American University Presses, Beacon Press is proud to be a participant of this year's blog tour. In our contribution, we look at how social media has contributed to the success of one of our recent titles.

Dr. Christopher Emdin's For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood…and the Rest of Y’all Too: Reality Pedagogy and Urban Education is one of Beacon Press's best-selling books of 2016 (in hardcover) and 2017 (in paperback). Word-of-mouth quickly spread to educators across the country as more and more had a chance to read the book and hear Dr. Emdin speak. It's not just individual teachers who see the value in Emdin's theory of "reality pedagogy" in creating transformative classroom experiences for urban youth of color, we also see school districts  buying the book for professional development as well as adoptions in education departments at colleges and universities. In its first year, we were thrilled to have it appear on two New York Times’s bestseller lists—Race & Civil Rights and Education—for multiple weeks!

Part of the success of For White Folks can be traced to enthusiastic online conversation by educators around Emdin and the book, especially on Twitter. The enthusiastic and thoughtful commentary demonstrates how the book has filled a definite hole in the conversation around urban education. Below are some of the kinds of responses Emdin and his book continually receive on Twitter that help spread the word and keep the conversation about how we can transform urban education for teachers and students going.

The San Francisco Unified School District Office shares that they are using the book for professional development with their teacher.

Aaron Brengard, a principal at San Jose’s Katherine Smith Elementary School, is using For White Folks as a resource and book club with his staff.

Kevin Winebold, a musical director in NYC, is a big fan of the cover of the book.  

It also helps to have an active and impassioned author—both online and offline. Emdin's events always draw significant social media responses from attendees energized by his talks.

Readers, inspired by passages in the book, often share them online, which can often spread beyond Twitter and reach new audiences when shared on Facebook pages and groups or Listservs for educators.

The Beacon blog, with original pieces by Emdin and excerpts from the book, also provides content for educators to find online and share. In addition to teacher enthusiasm online, Emdin’s own large social media following and his weekly #HipHopEd Twitter chats provide a large and active audience for ongoing promotion of the ideas set forth in For White Folks.

As Race, Education, and Democracy Series editor Theresa Perry wrote in the book’s Series Note: “[For White Folks] is filled with wisdom, theoretical and practical knowledge that has been formed in praxis. It is required reading for teachers, teacher educators, and community activists…it is smart, compelling, filled with emotions, and brimming over with commitment.”

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Head on over to these other university press blogs to read their contributions: Harvard University Press, Johns Hopkins University PressAthabasca University Press. Visit the AAUP website for a list of contributions from the rest of the week.