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The U.S. didn't 'voluntarily' end slavery and a public official should know that

Rebecca Bracken is a news and views writer.






#VoluntaryHistory is the hilarious response to a public official's ignorance on slavery

Pam Mazanec is a businesswoman who represents Colorado's 4th Congressional District on the state's Board of Education.

She's concerned that Colorado's history classes don't spend enough time celebrating "American exceptionalism" and took to Facebook to argue the point.

"As an example, I note our slavery history," Mazanec wrote. "Yes, we practiced slavery. But we also ended it voluntarily, at great sacrifice, while the practice continues in many countries still today! Shouldn't our students be provided that viewpoint? This is part of the argument that America is exceptional. Does our APUSH Framework support or denigrate that position?”

Yes, you read that right. In a stunning demo of her own ignorance, she argues that the U.S. "voluntarily" ended slavery and that dwelling on all of these pesky, negative moments in our country's past somehow undermines students' ability to see how red, white, blue and awesome America really is. She wants high school history classes to help students understand about "American exceptionalism." Whatever that means.

As you can probably imagine, there were some folks who were pretty alarmed that someone in a position of authority over our education system could be so woefully uneducated herself, and started rallying around the social media hashtag #voluntaryhistory.

The hashtag was first started by historian, author and Duke University professor Laurent Dubois (@soccerpolitics), who calls #voluntaryhistory "a site for historiographical reflections on silencing of history and the costs of selective memory."

And boy-howdy has the social media universe taken up the challenge.

For instance...

This is another great response.

How about a little joke about the bubonic plague?

Or this update on the real reason Harriet Jacobs fled to the North.

In her defense, Mazanec has said, "When I made the statement, I assumed that all the readers of course knew that the Civil War was fought and that it was a long, bloody, difficult war that divided citizens and their families. I assumed that I didn’t have to explain or point out that the war was fought to end slavery, at least in part, in large part. And I was directly referring to the Civil War, the lives lost and the division among citizens by saying it came “at great sacrifice.” By “voluntarily,” I meant the passage of the 13th Amendment."

What do you think? Is this something that was just blown out of proportion? Or, is Mazanec being unsympathetic regarding America's true history with slavery? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.

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