Prager University on Slavery

Slave Owners Were Democrats


The Prager University Foundation,or PragerU,  is a  501(c)(3) nonprofit that promotes conservative views. Despite its name it is not an academic institution and does not offer degrees.

PragerU has been accused of publishing misleading or false content on climate change, slavery, racism, immigration, and fascism, and promoting anti-LGBT politics.1 With this reputation to uphold, Candace Owens did not disappoint.

PragerU’s “A Short History of Slavery” by Candace Owens
Candace Owens
On Slavery

In her PragerU video “A Short History of Slavery” Owens says the first thing you need to know is that slavery was not “invented” by Whites and it did not start in 1619.2 In her video “The Plantation: Then and Now” Owens admits that by 1850 there were four million black slaves “imprisoned on plantations in the American South. They were prevented from learning how to read, their families were forcibly broken up, and if they tried to escape, they were severely and brutally punished.” She adds that “the owners of these plantations were, almost without exception, Democrats.”3

That’a all she says. No discussion about the development of American political parties from 1792 to the 1850’s. How the party of Jefferson and Madison was called Democratic-Republican and wanted limited federal power. How the Andrew Jackson supporters formed the Democratic Party in 1828, favoring individual and state rights. Or the rise of a new anti-slavery Republican Party in 1854, and the split of the Whig Party into Republicans and Democrats.4 History doesn’t suit her current political agenda.

On Black Victimhood

Owens continues with a fantasy that “slave-owning Democrats” continue to exploit “Black victimhood” because “it elects politicians and funds racial grievance groups.” And she quotes Clarence Thomas on what happens to Blacks who leave the modern plantation and vote conservative:

It is a high-tech lynching for uppity blacks who in any way deign to think for themselves, to do for themselves, to have different ideas, and it is a message that unless you kowtow to an old order, this is what will happen to you. You will be lynched, destroyed, caricatured…rather than hung from a tree.”

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas5

Owens congratulates Whites for ending slavery in the British and French empires in 1833 and 1848, and the Union soldiers in the Civil War who were “overwhelmingly white.”6 She does not mention the U.S. Constitution, that continued the trans-Atlantic slave trade to America for 20 years. Or the 1808 “Act Prohibiting Importation of Slaves” to America, after the children of slaves insured a sustainable domestic supply.7

PragerU’s “Was the Civil War About Slavery” by Ty Seidule
Ty Seidule

After Candace Owens’ political propaganda, it was surprising to find a grain of historical consensus and fact at PragerU: “Was the Civil War About Slavery?

Slavery Caused the Civil War

More than 150 years later this remains a controversial question. 

Why? Because many people don’t want to believe that the citizens of the southern states were willing to fight and die to preserve a morally repugnant institution. There has to be another reason, we are told. Well, there isn’t. 

The evidence is clear and overwhelming. Slavery was, by a wide margin, the single most important cause of the Civil War — for both sides. Before the presidential election of 1860, a South Carolina newspaper warned that the issue before the country was, “the extinction of slavery,” and called on all who were not prepared to “surrender the institution” to act. Shortly after Abraham Lincoln’s victory, they did. 

The secession documents of every Southern state made clear, crystal clear, that they were leaving the Union in order to protect their “peculiar institution” of slavery — a phrase that at the time meant “the thing special to them.” The vote to secede was 169 to 0 in South Carolina, 166 to 7 in Texas, 84 to 15 in Mississippi. In no Southern state was the vote close. 

Alexander Stephens of Georgia, the Confederacy’s Vice President, clearly articulated the views of the South in March 1861. “Our new government,” he said, was founded on slavery. “Its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests upon the great truth that the Negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, submission to the superior race, is his natural and normal condition.”

Colonel Ty Seidule, Professor and Head, Department of History at the United States Military Academy, West Point8

Southern legislatures were clear that the preservation of slavery was the reason for seccession. Not only for economic reasons, but because of white superiority as a race. The South’s primary interest in states’ rights was to protect slavery.

Both North and South Were Agrarian

Some argue that the cause of the war was economic. The North was industrial and the South agrarian, and so, the two lived in such economically different societies that they could no longer stay together. Not true. 

In the middle of the 19th century, both North and South were agrarian societies. In fact, the North produced far more food crops than did the South. But Northern farmers had to pay their farmhands who were free to come and go as they pleased, while Southern plantation owners exploited slaves over whom they had total control. 

And it wasn’t just plantation owners who supported slavery. The slave society was embraced by all classes in the South. The rich had multiple motivations for wanting to maintain slavery, but so did the poor, non-slave holding whites. The “peculiar institution” ensured that they did not fall to the bottom rung of the social ladder. That’s why another argument — that the Civil War couldn’t have been about slavery because so few people owned slaves — has little merit. 

Colonel Ty Seidule, Professor and Head, Department of History at the United States Military Academy, West Point9

Both North and South might have been agrarian, but the North had more manufacturing and its economy didn’t depend on exporting labor-intensive cotton. I list the economy as the second cause, but cotton exports didn’t fill the Confederate army with recruits.

Confederate Soldiers

The influence of slavery on Southern society was pervasive. Historian Joseph Glatthaar’s analysis of the 1861 volunteers in Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia says one in 10 owned a slave, and one in four lived with parents who owned a slave. More than in the general population, where one in 20 owned a slave and one in five lived in a slaveholding household.10  When the sample is expanded to include family members who were slaveholders or worked for plantations, the numbers increase.

Unlike Owens, Seidule gives credit to the ex-slaves who served in the Union army:

As a soldier, I am proud that the United States Army, my army, defeated the Confederates. In its finest hour, soldiers wearing this blue uniform — almost two hundred thousand of them former slaves themselves — destroyed chattel slavery, freed 4 million men, women, and children from human bondage, and saved the United States of America.

Colonel Ty Seidule, Professor and Head, Department of History at the United States Military Academy, West Point11

  1. PragerU,” Wikipedia, retrieved 9/13/23 ↩︎
  2. Candace Owens, “A Short History of Slavery,” PragerU, Aug 23, 2021 ↩︎
  3. Candace Owens, “The Plantation: Then and Now,” PragerU, Aug 23, 2021 ↩︎
  4. Political parties in the United States,” Wikipedia, retrieved 9/13/23 ↩︎
  5. Candace Owens, “A Short History of Slavery,” PragerU, Aug 23, 2021  ↩︎
  6. Candace Owens, “A Short History of Slavery,” PragerU, Aug 23, 2021 ↩︎
  7. “Act Prohibiting Importation of Slaves,” Wikipedia, retrieved 9/5/23  ↩︎
  8. Ty Seidule, “Was the Civil War About Slavery?” PragerU, Aug 9, 2015 ↩︎
  9. Ty Seidule, “Was the Civil War About Slavery?” PragerU, Aug 9, 2015  ↩︎
  10. Chris Graham, “Myths and Misunderstandings: Slaveholding and the Confederate Soldier,”
    August 8, 2017 ↩︎
  11. Ty Seidule, “Was the Civil War About Slavery?” PragerU, Aug 9, 2015 ↩︎

One response

  1. Kevin E. Walsh Avatar
    Kevin E. Walsh

    September 11, 2023

    Freedom From Religion Foundation warns PragerU misinforms students in Florida and Oklahoma

    After purging its public school of books and reality-based curricula, Florida is now seemingly trying to fill that void with hand-picked propaganda — and Oklahoma is going even further.

    The Freedom From Religion Foundation warns that an industrial-scale disinformation campaign by the deceptively named PragerU — which is not a university and seems to be little more than a YouTube channel — includes lies about America’s foundational principle of keeping government secular. First, Florida brought in Michigan-based Hillsdale College, an ultraconservative Christian college with ties to the Trump administration Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. Now, Florida has reportedly approved of teachers supplementing their lessons with online videos by PragerU — known for high-quality production and garbage-level content. And in Oklahoma, the state’s Christian nationalist superintendent of public instruction, Ryan Walters, announced an “ongoing partnership with PragerU Kids.”

    PragerU teaches that the gender wage gap is a myth, downplays slavery and climate change, and regularly rails against immigrants and feminism. Its videos rely on the audience’s ignorance, presenting a heavily slanted view on culture-war issues couched as objective fact.

    PragerU offers a video providing misinformation on the separation between state and church, delivered by disgraced former law professor John Eastman, who was recently featured as “Co-Conspirator No. 2” in Donald Trump’s indictment for attempting to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. In that video, Eastman repeats the tired argument that since the phrase “separation of church and state” is not literally in the Constitution, “the Founding Fathers never intended for church and state to be completely separate. They saw religion, specifically religions based on the Bible, as indispensable to the moral foundation of the nation they were creating.”

    Nonsense. The Constitution’s Framers, cognizant of the history of warfare, persecution, schisms and bloodshed over religious differences, explicitly rejected the European tradition of uniting government with Christianity. The separation of state and church — a shorthand phrase coined by Thomas Jefferson and later adopted by the Supreme Court — is an American original. Eastman’s deeply misleading video for PragerU glosses over this reality, asserting a false conclusion about the Framers’ views on the place of religion in government. The video fits in perfectly with PragerU’s catalog of counterfactual propaganda.

    In recently announcing Oklahoma’s partnership with PragerU Kids, state Superintendent Walters ironically celebrated getting “this understanding of American history” into Oklahoma public school classrooms, “without any indoctrination but actually the facts of what happened.” To the contrary, PragerU’s founder Dennis Prager himself has admitted that PragerU’s ideologically driven propaganda videos are a form of “indoctrination.” The sad reality is that Walters views factual, evidence-based teaching as a form of indoctrination.

    FFRF Co-Presidents Annie Laurie Gaylor and Dan Barker have written to Walters and the Oklahoma State Board of Education, urging them to ditch the partnership. “Americans who value the benefits of public education free from actual indoctrination know that a key to effective learning is a classroom experience that encourages critical thinking and relies on academically vetted instruction approved by objectively decreed educators, rather than on Christian nationalist opinion,” they write. “We urge the Board of Education to quash this egregious partnership between Oklahoma public schools and PragerU to ensure that Oklahoma students are indeed educated, not indoctrinated.”

    PragerU claims that other states are also “signing up” for its PragerU Kids content, in addition to Florida and Oklahoma. If true, this is alarming — state boards of education should be reprimanding schools that allow teachers to sabotage student education with such mistruths. FFRF will continue to stand up for evidence-based public education in the face of Christian nationalist disinformation campaigns.

    The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with over 40,000 members across the country. Our purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.