Paul Holmes 07 May 2001 // 11:00PM GMT
Mention Laramie, Wyoming, Jasper, Texas, or Littleton, Colorado and our collective conscience is assaulted by the brutal hate crimes committed in these places. You’ve seen the pictures and heard the news accounts. The seeds of hate exist everywhere…in our communities, schools, and in many homes. Tragically, our children learn to hate before they are old enough to comprehend why. Intolerance is learned. Therefore, it can be unlearned.
Recognizing the need for awareness and education and that books have a unique and very effective way of explaining issues especially between parents their children, Leonard Riggio, CEO of Barnes & Noble, Inc. and Abraham Foxman, the Anti-Defamation League’s National Director, conceived Close the Book on Hate, a campaign designed to break the cycle of hate through reading and education. The centerpiece of which is a new book, Hate Hurts: How Children Learn and Unlearn Prejudice. Former U.S. Senator Bill Bradley, a long-time advocate of racial unity, served as honorary chairman and spokesperson. Through events in all 551 Barnes & Noble bookstores, Close the Book on Hate touched the hearts and minds of communities across America during the fall of 2000. Plans for the 2001 campaign are now underway.
Broadly speaking, the challenge was to break through the public apathy towards hate and prejudice from an “I can’t do anything about it” attitude to one of individual responsibility to take action in your home and community.
On an execution level, the challenge was to harness the vast resources of Barnes & Noble and ADL to make a significant impact at the grassroots level.
Research: We didn’t have to look very far to identify the need for such a campaign. During the previous year, Americans saw the brutal murders of James Byrd, Jr., an African American man dragged to his death by racists, and Matthew Shepherd, a gay student at the University of Wyoming. The senseless shootings at Colombine High School and the 1999 summer of hate when synagogues were burned in Sacramento. Blacks, Asians and Jews were murdered and wounded by a white supremacist on a shooting spree in the Midwest. Toddlers at a Los Angeles Jewish community center were attacked by an extremist who also killed a Filipino postal worker.
Planning: Partner with Scholastic, Inc. to publish the campaign’s centerpiece -- Hate Hurts: How Children Learn and Unlearn Prejudice -- created to serve as the ultimate teaching tool against prejudice.
Dedicate permanent, in-store space in all Barnes & Noble stores for ongoing display of works of fiction, non-fiction, photography and poetry that emphasize the importance of valuing diversity for both children and adults.
Produce a free educational brochure, Close the Book on Hate: 101 Ways to Combat Prejudice that features a recommended reading list of all books included in the campaign.
Barnes & Noble community relations’ managers throughout the country met with the 30 local ADL offices to plan events in their stores and make announcements in their communities.
Secure endorsements from more than 25 national civil rights and educational organizations.
Establish alliances with local religious, political and civil organizations to participate in events.
Encourage state and local government leaders to support the campaign. In this first year, 11 Mayors and Governors proclaimed September as “Close the Book on Hate Month.”
Drive awareness of the critical issues among children, teens, parents, caregivers, educators and community leaders.
Dramatically illustrate the impact of a “public-private” partnership (ADL and Barnes & Noble) to effectively address important societal issues.
Generate national and local market media coverage that will help inform communities about the issues and provide them with the tools to effectively identify and confront them.
Support broadest possible distribution and access to Hate Hurts: How Children Learn and Unlearn Prejudice.
Distribute a free educational booklet, Close the Book on Hate: 101 Ways to Combat Prejudice.
The campaign focused on two key strategies: media relations and community events. We used the extensive news of recent hate crimes to bring media attention to the need for grassroots education and action. To bring the issue further into the spotlight, the campaign tapped Bill Bradley as its primary national spokesperson during his presidential bid. All 551 Barnes & Noble stores across the country served as resource centers for educating the local community about how to combat hate in their town.
Campaign officially launched through three national press conferences in New York, Atlanta and Los Angeles.
Seven primary markets held launch events to kick off the campaign, including conferences and community forums featuring prominent local leaders and community members.
All 551 Barnes & Noble stores held educational programs with parents, children, community leaders, and schoolteachers. Events included author readings and discussions, children’s book readings, teen speak-out programs, civic leader panel discussions and programs for educators.
Drive Awareness: More than 25,000 people participated in 930 events, including:
9,000 children and 5,000 caregivers in children’s story readings
10,500 teachers (K-12) at “Educator Nights”
More than 5,500 teens and adults at local kick-off events, panel discussions and author readings.
Media Coverage: Generated approximately 38 million media impressions through more than 100 national and local broadcast and print placements, including MSNBC with Brian Williams, Los Angeles Times, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Houston Chronicle, Boston Globe, Connecticut Post, and local NBC, ABC, CBS and Fox affiliates.
Distribution and Access to Hate Hurts: 3,610 copies of Hate Hurts sold at Barnes & Noble stores and through www.bn.com.
8,000 copies distributed to schools and parents across the country
Distribute educational booklet: Two million brochures distributed at Barnes & Noble stores, schools, libraries, police departments and community centers.
An Ongoing Campaign: Based on the program’s success, Barnes & Noble and the Anti-Defamation League are planning a year-two round of national and community events.