Social Reading for Black History Month

Many of us engage in social reading — in the old fashioned sense of reading groups or, for those of us who teach or are students, in classes. Perhaps more distantly, many of us do so because we read material that is not truly single authored — look at all those footnotes and the acknowledgements, for example. And, of course. those who use an e-reader on phone or otherwise know that the reason you can see those faint underlinings is because others have underlined before you and the information is collected and made available through that mystery of mysteries, data/coding/internet.

At Shimer College, Social Reading has a bit more meaning. We call it Shimertopia. This month we are reading a variety of texts written by core black and/or african american authors.


You could join too. Here’s how:


SocialBook is a new publishing platform based on the idea that “a book is a place” where readers can congregate. SocialBook makes it very easy to annotate a text and to follow a conversation in the margins. Using SocialBook, Open Utopia allows for readers around the world to annotate the text in the margins and comment on the annotations of other readers, creating a conversation that is both dynamic and preserved for future participants. SocialBook also makes it possible for us to create a specific reading group composed of Shimer faculty, staff, students, and alumni: Shimertopia. Regardless of where you may find yourself, you can still share in a text-centered conversation with other Shimerians.


If you would like to participate in this experience, please first sign up for SocialBook here. SocialBook is entirely free, and in addition to Open Utopia, you will find dozens of other texts that you may read “socially”. Please note that SocialBook works only with Safari or Chrome browsers. It will not function properly with Internet Explorer, Firefox or other browsers. If you do not already have a compatible browser, you can download Safari for Windows here or Google Chrome here. If you use a Mac or I-Pad, Safari should already be installed on your device.


After you have signed up for SocialBook, please email, and ask to be added to the Shimertopia Group.Once you do so the following directions will be relevant.


When you click on the My Group tab, you will be able to follow the comments of other Shimerians in the margin. You may add comments of your own by highlighting a passage in the text and typing your comment which will then appear to all of us in the margin. You may also click “reply” on others’ comments and continue the conversation they have started. Once someone has replied to a comment, that comment cannot be deleted. It becomes part of a permanently preserved conversation about the text.


We’d love for you to join. And, please spread the word.


This month, for Black History month, the readings are Chapter 6 (“Of the Training of Black Men) of W.E.B. DuBois’ The Souls of Black Folk. We have also added a collection of speeches from African Americans as collected by Alice Moore-Dunbar Nelson. For those of you who enjoy reading plays, I added The Mule-Bone by Zora Neale Hurston and Langston Hughes. 


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