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April 12, 2011 The first shots of the Civil War were fired on April 12, 1861, a century-and-a-half ago, at Fort Sumter in South Carolina. Events commemorating the battle and the most traumatic era in American history are taking place this week with a concert and battle re-enactment. "It was a hard time for the United States and this part of the world," Tim Stone, park superintendent at Fort Sumter, told NPR. "We'll have two beams of light that will be one beam. And then on April 12, those beams will split up, to symbolize the splitting of our country." Hundreds of people have come to re-enact the battle for Fort Sumter, which began when Confederates attacked federal soldiers who held the fort after South Carolina had seceded from the Union. But the commemoration events have once again raised issues of slavery, states’ rights and the different ways Americans view the legacy of the Civil War. Civil War anniversaries open divisions Civil War anniversaries have always been complicated events because of deep cultural divisions that continue to this day. In 1913, Northern and Southern veterans gathered for the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg. Confederate and Union vets embraced one another. As historian Adam Goodheart explains, “There are some wonderful photographs and they're holding Union flags and Confederate flags and Woodrow Wilson went and gave a speech, saying that the 'old quarrel has been forgotten.' Well it's very symbolically significant that excluded from that reunion were the black veterans. They were not even invited to participate.” Fifty years ago, controversy plagued ceremonies and events commemorating the 100th anniversary of the battle at Fort Sumter. The Civil Rights Movement was well underway, and the anniversary played into ongoing racial tensions between and within Northern and Southern states. Protests erupted when a black delegate to a Civil War Centennial Commission meeting in South Carolina was denied access to the segregated hotel where white delegates were staying. Although the country has changed significantly in the last 50 years, controversy erupted last December when 300 whites gathered for a “Secession Ball” to celebrate December 20, 1860 -- when South Carolina became the first state leave the Union. 150th anniversary events aim to teach the past Historians, educators and event planners for the 150th anniversary are largely focusing on commemorating historical events honestly -- as they happened -- and recognizing the marks left on the nation as a whole by the Civil War. The NAACP, one of the nation’s oldest civil rights organizations, is planning its own "teach in" event Tuesday to talk about the effects of the war and slavery. The Rev. Nelson Rivers III of the NAACP says people who believe the war was fought over states' rights are not confronting the real cause: slavery. "No matter how you dress it up, how you try to revise history," Rivers told NPR, "when you're finished with this story, the war was about the South, and my state in particular, South Carolina, wanting to be able to hold black people as property. That's wrong." The re-enactors converging from all across the United States this week say their goal is accuracy. "Political discussions need to stay elsewhere, unless they're complaining about Lincoln or something. Make it an 1861 political discussion," Confederate army re-enactor Bruce Blackmon told NPR. At the same time, he added, states are still fighting off big, federal programs such as the health care reform law. The ceremony at Fort Sumter kicks off four years of events across the South focusing on Civil War history.