Charlottesville Curriculum, via the University Press of Kansas

Acquisitions editors Kim Hogeland and Joyce Harrison have created a preliminary reading list of UPK titles related to the past week’s events in Charlottesville, race relations and civil rights.

Gospel According to the Klan: The KKK’s Appeal to Protestant America, 1915-1930 by Kelly J. Baker

This engrossing exposé looks closely at the Klan’s definition of Protestantism, its belief in a strong relationship between church and state, its notions of masculinity and femininity, and its views on Jews and African Americans. The book also examines in detail the Klan’s infamous 1924 anti-Catholic riot at Notre Dame University and draws alarming parallels between the Klan’s message of the 1920s and current posturing by some Tea Party members and their sympathizers.


Republicans and Race: The GOP’s Frayed Relationship with African Americans, 1945-1974 by  Timothy N. Thurber

But since 1964, no Republican presidential candidate has attracted more than 15 percent of the black electorate, and few GOP candidates for other offices have fared much better. No segment of the American electorate is more reliably Democratic than African Americans. The GOP, meanwhile, remains nearly an all-white party. In this path-breaking book, historian Timothy Thurber illuminates the deep roots of this gulf by exploring the contentious, and sometimes surprising, relationship between African Americans and the Republican Party from the end of World War II through Richard Nixons presidency. The GOP, he shows, shaped the modern civil rights movement, but the struggle for racial equality also transformed the GOP.


Honoring the Civil War Dead: Commemoration and the Problem of Reconciliation by John R. Neff

Neff contends that the significance of the Civil War dead has been largely overlooked and that the literature on the war has so far failed to note how commemorations of the dead provide a means for both expressing lingering animosities and discouraging reconciliation. Commemoration—from private mourning to the often extravagant public remembrances exemplified in cemeteries, monuments, and Memorial Day observances—provided Americans the quintessential forum for engaging the wars meaning.


The Cause Lost: Myths and Realities of the Confederacy by William C. Davis

Davis also illustrates why the cause of the war—a subject of long-standing controversy—boils down to the single issue of slavery; why Southerners, ninety percent of whom didn’t own slaves, were willing to join in the battle to defend their homeland; how the personalities, tactics, and styles of the armies in the turbulent West differed greatly from those in the East; what real or perceived turning points influenced Southern decision making; and how mythology and misinterpretations have been perpetuated through biography, history, literature, and film. Revealing the Confederacy’s myths for what they really are, Davis nevertheless illustrates how much those myths inform our understanding of the Civil War and its place in Southern and American culture.


Dred Scott and the Politics of Slavery by Earl M. Maltz

The slave Dred Scott claimed that his residence in a free state transformed him into a free man. His lawsuit took many twists and turns before making its way to the Supreme Court in 1856. But when the Court ruled against him, the ruling sent shock waves through the nation and helped lead to civil war.


Plessy v. Ferguson: Race and Inequality in Jim Crow America by Williamjames Hull Hoffer

Hoffer’s compelling reconstruction illuminates the controversies and impact of Plessy v. Ferguson for a new generation of students and other interested readers. It also pays tribute to a group of little known heroes from the Deep South who failed to hold back the tide of racial segregation but nevertheless laid the groundwork for a less divided America.


Race, Sex, and the Freedom to Marry: Loving v. Virginia by Peter Wallenstein

In 1958 Mildred Jeter and Richard Loving, two young lovers from Caroline County, Virginia, got married. Soon they were hauled out of their bedroom in the middle of the night and taken to jail. Their crime? Loving was white, Jeter was not, and in Virginia—as in twenty-three other states then—interracial marriage was illegal. Their experience reflected that of countless couples across America since colonial times. And in challenging the laws against their marriage, the Lovings closed the book on that very long chapter in the nation’s history. Race, Sex, and the Freedom to Marry tells the story of this couple and the case that forever changed the law of race and marriage in America.


Murder in Mississippi: United States v. Price and the Struggle for Civil Rights by Howard Ball

Howard Ball reminds us just how problematic the prosecution of the murderers—all members of the KKK—actually was. When the State of Mississippi failed to indict them, the U.S. tried to prosecute the case in federal district court. The judge there, however, ruled that the federal government had no jurisdiction and so dismissed the case. When the U.S. appealed, the Supreme Court unanimously overturned the lower court decision, claiming that federal authorities did indeed have the power to police civil rights violations in any state. United States v. Price (1967) thus produced a landmark decision that signaled a seismic shift in American legal history and race relations, for it meant that local authorities could no longer shield racist lawbreakers.

President Trump, Consider the Risks of Pardoning Yourself

The Trump administration’s unorthodox governing and use of social media has created a wealth of interest in many of our backlist titles. Jeffery Crouch’s 2009 release The Presidential Pardon Power has become one of our most popular books. Crouch was asked to write for The Hill. This is what he wrote:


The media is abuzz with speculation about President Trump’s clemency powers after the story broke that his lawyers are mulling options for himself and his family.

The president himself on Saturday seemed to confirm the report, asserting that he has “complete power” to pardon relatives, aides and possibly himself.

How does the clemency power work? Who could he pardon? Can he pardon himself? Should he?

The fact is, Trump can pardon any federal crime, ranging from moon-shining to treason. He may grant clemency as soon as an offense is committed: no need to wait for the offender to be sentenced, tried, or even charged with a crime. Overall, the courts have protected a broad, wide-ranging clemency power for the chief executive. Still, he may not pardon a future federal crime, excuse a state offense, or exercise clemency “in cases of impeachment,” as noted in Article II, Section 2, Clause 1 of the Constitution.

The remedy for an unpopular clemency decision comes from Congress. Members can hold hearings, subpoena documents, call witnesses, and otherwise raise the profile of the clemency decision.

They can also delay funding for presidential priorities, drag their feet on his policy priorities, and refuse to confirm presidential nominees. In more extreme cases, they can pursue impeaching the president, or even try to amend the Constitution.

How likely it is Congress will take these actions, with Republicans in control, is another matter completely.

Who could he pardon?

It’s clear that President Trump could pardon anyone caught up in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation – today, if he wanted to do so. He could grant as many or as few pardons as he wished, would not have to specify the crimes they are being pardoned for, and could make the language of the pardon as broad or as narrow as he wanted. Whether the political context would support any of these moves is unclear, but there’s little question that Trump has the legal power to act.

Can he pardon himself?

Most tantalizing, could Trump pardon himself? Few presidents have actually considered a self-pardon, and none has actually tried. If Trump is the first to go through with it, he should know that legal scholars are divided on the question.

On one hand, it is clear that the sparse constitutional language on clemency says nothing about a self-pardon, and the courts have never directly confronted the question. To legal scholars Robert Nida and Rebecca L. Spiro, writing in 1999, the president should be able to self-pardon, largely because the Constitution does not say he is forbidden from doing so.

On the other hand, law professor Brian C. Kalt argued in 1996 that a self-pardon is not allowed by the Constitution. He writes, “a presidential self-pardon … would only be plunder to take home after a career-ending disgrace …” and that the president’s self-pardon would continue to benefit him even after leaving office, and even if he is impeached. Moreover, a self-pardon would be inconsistent with our separation of powers system.

Both sides offer compelling arguments. However, I lean in the direction of Nida and Spiro. The courts have usually given the president a lot of leeway on clemency questions. It’s likely that a self-pardon would end up in front of the Supreme Court. From there, they could find a self-pardon appropriate or not. In fact, it’s entirely possible that they could rule that a self-pardon is permissible, and point out that the remedy for abuse of clemency is what the framers of the Constitution intended for any abuse of power: impeachment.

Should he?

Whether or not Trump could pardon himself is a different question from whether he should, of course. Considerations related to impeachment play a role here, too, even if it may seem a remote possibility while the House of Representatives and the Senate remain under Republican control.

In 1915, the Supreme Court decided in Burdick v. United States that a pardon “carries an imputation of guilt and acceptance of a confession of it.” If President Trump indeed granted himself a self-pardon, it could be seen as a confession that he needed one. Though the pardon would wipe away his legal problems, he would be creating new political complications. The standard for impeachment, “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors” is not criminal, it’s political, so an acknowledgment of guilt made via a self-pardon could actually become a starting point for impeachment.

Thus, while legally speaking, President Trump has a green light to pardon others, he should carefully consider whether a self-pardon, for all of its obvious benefits, is really worth the risk.

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Jeffrey Crouch, faculty, washington semester


Jeffrey Crouch is assistant professor of American government at American University and author of the book The Presidential Pardon Power. He is the reviews and book editor for AU’s Congress & the Presidency journal.