Anti-CRT bill in Virginia makes reference to nonexistent Lincoln-Frederick Douglass debates

The bill has since been pulled in order to fix the error.

Updated: January 14, 2022 - 12:45pm

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook


A measure introduced to ban critical race theory in Virginia schools suggests teaching students about key themes and landmark events in American history and race relations, including a supposed debate between President Abraham Lincoln and famed abolitionist Frederick Douglass. Of course, no such debate ever occurred.

A bill introduced this week by first-term Virginia delegate Wren Williams (R) confuses Illinois Democratic Sen. Stephen Douglas (Lincoln's debate opponent), with Frederick Douglass.

The proposal would require Virginia schools to educate students with an understanding of the country's founding documents, including the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and the Federalist Papers.

It also recommends that students be proficient in knowledge of important texts relating to the American experiment, including Alexis de Tocqueville's "Democracy in America" and "the first debate between Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass."

Lincoln and Stephen Douglas famously appeared together across the state of Illinois to stump for their parties' respective candidates in state legislature elections. Those historic debates revolved around the justice, morality, and legality of slavery in America.

Frederick Douglass, at the time, was in Rochester, N.Y. He and Lincoln would eventually meet at the White House while the country was in the midst of the Civil War. 

As of Friday morning, it appeared Wren had withdrawn his bill in order to correct the error. The bill's purpose is to keep "divisive concepts" such as the theory that America is "fundamentally or systematically racist or sexist" out of schools.