This week's 150th commemoration of the Civil War's first shot is expected to be far less controversial than the centennial.
Fifty years ago, the federal government had a special commission in charge of the commemoration, and it made headlines -- for the wrong reasons.
A New Jersey commission member was not allowed to stay at the commission's downtown Charleston hotel because she was black.
President John F. Kennedy ordered the commission moved to the desegregated Charleston Naval Base, but that didn't stop the shots.
The vice chairman of the New Jersey Centennial Commission said the commission was guilty of "pathetic mismanagement," but Charleston native and Saturday Evening Post Associate Editor Ashley Halsey counter-charged that New Jersey's delegates arrived in Charleston "with every intention of making the situation difficult."
"Centennial of War Rocked by Dispute," read The New York Times' front page headline, and the story detailed the back and forth over whether New Jersey's racial policies were superior to South Carolina's.
This time around, there's no commission, no legal segregation -- and no apparent fuss on the horizon.
"I think things are coming together extremely well," said John Tucker, former superintendent of Fort Sumter who is vice chair of the local trust coordinating the commemoration. "I think we have a lot of programs that will allow everybody's voice to be heard by the diversity of the programming."
Not only was Charleston's centennial celebration marred by the dispute over race, but it ultimately led to two split observations about 12 miles apart.
"If anything happens similar to what occurred in 1961, we have failed miserably," Tucker said. "I think Charleston has come a long way, and this gives us a chance to provide a fresh face on the state of South Carolina and the city of Charleston."
The upcoming events don't even seem to have the trigger that caused some controversy during last December's sesquicentennial observance of the signing of the Ordinance of Secession. The NAACP protested a gala inside the Gaillard Auditorium that featured a re-enactment of the signing.
No protests are planned this time, except for a marathon reading of "Uncle Tom's Cabin" Tuesday in Columbia.
Tucker said he hopes that when all the commemorating is over and done, "everybody can be proud that they're a citizen of Charleston and will feel that Charleston has done a great job of bringing everybody together."
"We just hope the community will come out and participate."
Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771.
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