In April 2021, teachers and students at Arlington Public Schools (APS) received free copies of Stamped by author Jason Reynolds, which promotes key ideas from critical race theory. Parents Defending Education learned about this after being contacted by a whistleblower in the district.
In response to a FOIA request, Parents Defending Education learned that the books were handed out to students and teachers after coordination between APS’ chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer and a public relations manager at Amazon Logistics. Amazon donated the money for the books. In addition, Amazon donated $8,000 for Reynolds to speak for 30 minutes and take questions for 15 minutes, or $177 per minute.
In addition, in two separate orders with Barnes & Noble, the school district spent $8,780.16 for 807 copies of Reynolds’ book, “Stamped” (at a rate of about $10.88 per book), bringing the total to 16,780.16 spent to promote Reynolds.
The three orders were:
- March 29, 2021, Purchase Order 2104791: $3,264.00 for 300 ‘Stamped’ books from Barnes & Noble
- April 6, 2021, Purchase Order 2104879: $5,516.16 for 507 ‘Stamped’ books from Barnes & Noble
- April 15, 2021, Purchase Order 2105038: $8,000 speaking event for Jason Reynolds
On February 9, the Amazon PR manager wrote to APS regarding Amazon’s “Black History Month Initiatives,” including donating items from Black-owned businesses, books by Black authors and, significantly, financial donations that “support the company’s efforts to invest in education and technology by providing devices to students and families in historically underserved communities.” In the past, he noted, Amazon had donated Kindles, laptops, school supplies, and robotics equipment. In a followup email, the Amazon official noted that the company even offered wireless hotspots for remote learning.
On February 13, the APS official sent an email to Amazon with a request list and a “few talking points to assist with closing this deal to team Amazon.”
The list included: a “minimum” of 550 books of Stamped and “perhaps” some copies of the Stamped Study Guide to “really make this investment impactful,” as well as a virtual talk by the book’s author, Jason Reynolds, or “Ibram X,” the author of the book, How to be an Anti-Racist.
He noted that Wakefield High School has “around 500 out of 800 African American high school students in the district.”
APS asserted that the books and talk “would satisfy” a requirement for “building-wide activity” through a program, “No Place for Hate,” that the school district had already signed with the Anti-Defamation League—this program requires that 75 percent of students sign a pledge.
The APS official wrote: “I realize Amazon’s target group for Black History, but we all know that anti-racism work requires all allies. Our collective ask is that we open up the possible opportunity for other high school student populations to participate in a virtual convocation with Jason Reynolds or Ibram X as well. I hope the bullets above paint a win-win and a clear vision of the opportunity here to really make a collective impact.”
By early March, the APS official shared the news that they were “able to secure” Reynolds “to support our high school activity.”