Of all the paragraphs in a bill to ban “divisive concepts” from being taught in Virginia public schools, Section B3 may have seemed the most innocuous. After all, it was in the part of the proposal that defined what could actually be taught in history classes, not the myriad things that would be banned or the consequences teachers could face for teaching them, including prosecution and getting fired.
Section B3 of the bill, which was sponsored by Republican freshman Del. Wren Williams, defined what could be taught as “the founding documents,” like the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, excerpts from the Federalist Papers, the writings of the Founding Fathers and Alexis de Tocqueville’s classic “Democracy in America.” Oh, and one more thing: “the first debate between Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass.”
It was a clear reference to the famed Lincoln-Douglas debates, one of the high points in this country’s intellectual, moral and civic history, but there’s just one problem: Lincoln did not debate Frederick Douglass.
By Friday morning, Frederick Douglass was trending on Twitter, and the bill had been withdrawn.