US ‘concerned’ Russia preparing for an invasion in Ukraine – as it happened – The Guardian

A Republican bill to ban the teaching of “divisive concepts” in schools in Virginia ran into ridicule when among historical events deemed suitable for study, it described a nonexistent debate between Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass.

Lincoln did engage in a series of historic debates hinged on the issue of slavery, in the Illinois Senate campaign of 1858. But he did so against Stephen Douglas, a senator who had ties to slavery, and not against Douglass, the great campaigner for the abolition of slavery who was once enslaved himself.

The Virginia bill was sponsored by Wren Williams, a freshman Republican sent to Richmond in a tumultuous November election.

History has become a divisive concept in states across the US, as rightwingers spread alarm about the teaching of race issues. In November, the winning candidate for governor in Virginia, the Republican Glenn Youngkin, made history a wedge issue in his win over the Democrat, Terry McAuliffe.

Youngkin seized upon critical race theory, an academic discipline that examines the ways in which racism operates in US laws and society – but which is not taught in Virginia schools.

The elementary error in Williams’s bill attracted national attention, including from the Washington Post. However, reports that the bill had been withdrawn were in error, a spokesperson for the politician said on Friday.

The spokesperson also provided to the Guardian a statement from the Virginia division of legislative services, which said the error “was inserted at the drafting level, following receipt of a historically accurate request from the office of Delegate Wren Williams”.

Williams told he was “frustrated” but realised “mistakes happen”.

Nonetheless, many were happy to point out the error.

“New rule,” wrote Steve Vladeck, a University of Texas law professor. “If you don’t know the difference between Frederick Douglass and Stephen Douglas, you don’t get to tell anyone else what to teach.”

Sidney Blumenthal, a Guardian contributor and Lincoln biographer, pointed out that Lincoln and Douglass did meet three times when Lincoln was president, from 1861 to 1865 and through a civil war that ended with slavery abolished.

Blumenthal also offered a way in which students in Virginia and elsewhere might use Douglass’s life and work to examine divisive concepts today.

Speaking after two centrist Democrats sank Joe Biden’s push for voting rights reform, Blumenthal said: “Frederick Douglass’s great cause became that of voting rights.

“If there is any debate that is going on now, it is not between Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. It is between Frederick Douglass and all the Republican senators who refuse to support voting rights – and Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema too.”

For further reading, here’s Ibram X Kendi on why Frederick Douglass matters:

The Ohio supreme court ordered the state’s general assembly to redraw more maps that complied with the partisan fairness requirements in the Ohio constitution. It also denounced the consequences of gerrymandering.

“Gerrymandering is the antithetical perversion of representative democracy. It is an abuse of power,” Justice Michael Donnelly, a Democrat. “Its singular allure is that it locks in the controlling party’s political power while locking out any other party or executive office from serving as a check and balance to power.”

“When the dealer stacks the deck in advance, the house usually wins,” he also wrote. “That perhaps explains how a party that generally musters no more than 55 percent of the statewide popular vote is positioned to reliably win anywhere from 75 percent to 80 percent of the seats in the Ohio congressional delegation. By any rational measure, that skewed result just does not add up.”

Ohio Republicans had insisted that the districts they drew were competitive, but the majority of justices said that requirement appears nowhere in the constitution.