In Glory's Shadow: Shannon Faulkner, The Citadel, and a Changing America

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9780679446354: In Glory's Shadow: Shannon Faulkner, The Citadel, and a Changing America

The byzantine world of The Citadel is fully revealed in this gripping account of Shannon Faulkner's attempt to become its first female cadet.

In Glory's Shadow explores the history of a southern institution determined to preserve traditional lines of power and social influence while all around it America was changing.

In 1993, Shannon -- then a high school senior -- filed suit against The Citadel, the public all-male military college in Charleston, South Carolina. She claimed that by refusing to admit her as a cadet the school was defying the Constitution. For three years an ugly battle raged: Courtroom clashes over justice, educational styles and the training of young men and women alternated with small-town pettiness, death threats and the vilest expressions of sexism and hate. Catherine S. Manegold covered the landmark battle for the New York Times; now she gives us the story behind the story.

It starts in the antebellum South in 1822, when members of the white minority, terrified by the narrowly averted Denmark Vesey slave revolt, called for a citadel and hastily organized a private militia. Twenty years later that small home guard was remade into a school where white youths might gain access to a world of elegance, wealth and power. We see the school grow in size and reputation through two world wars until the last few decades, when, as America wrestled with chaotic calls to power from blacks, women, immigrants and homosexuals, The Citadel took the path the country as a whole was rejecting and proudly marched in place. The cadets clung to antique hierarchies born of slavery and war, employing careful courtesies in public while practicing archaic and often brutal rituals within their barracks.

This is the world Shannon challenged. When she arrived at The Citadel's gates and was turned away because of her sex, the stage was set for conflict. We watch her struggle to a triumph that was short-lived: She won her case but left The Citadel after a single week -- three years at the center of the storm, and fear for her family's safety, finally wore her down. Manegold illuminates the course -- historical, judicial and psychological -- of Shannon's fight and uncovers a striking American drama, a clash between those who would preserve the rigid structures of the past and those trying to chart a new course in a nation remaking itself.

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Review:

About half of Catherine S. Manegold's story in In Glory's Shadow deals with Shannon Faulkner's hard-fought legal battle to attend the Citadel, an all-male military academy in South Carolina that bills itself as the "South's West Point." (It is, most famously, the basis for the setting of Pat Conroy's bestselling novel The Lords of Discipline.) The other half, the "backstory" if you will, is a portrait of the Old South and old Southern masculinity, two venerated icons the Citadel has struggled to keep alive within its fortress-like walls. The Citadel was founded in the 1820s as a private training ground for an army intended to protect rich white landowners against insurrection by black slaves. The original recruits were mostly poor white men with no other chance to improve their class status. It became a school after the Civil War and settled into its role as a military college in the 20th century. The desire to ensure a successful future continues to draw students: Faulkner herself says she wanted to enroll for the discipline the academy provides, as well as the "brotherhood" she sees as a path to security. But what Manegold uncovers is less a family than a dysfunctional army, with a student-led tradition of physical and psychological abuse that seems to be supported by adult authority. (As one regimental commander's blackboard reads, "We are not hurting boys, we are disciplining men.") In Glory's Shadow is both a fascinating study of a changing South and a gripping account of an important legal battle. --Maria Dolan

About the Author:

Catherine S. Manegold covered the litigation between Shannon Faulkner and The Citadel as a reporter with the New York Times. Prior to joining that newspaper's staff she worked as a foreign correspondent for the Philadelphia Inquirer and Newsweek, reporting on military and civilian matters throughout Asia and covering the Gulf War.

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