Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Asa Earl Carter
Asa Carter was born September 4 1925, was raised in a white family in Oxford, Alabama and attended the local primary school. Later in life Carter was a radio announcer for the American States Rights Association .
Carter has been credited as the author of the memorable line from Wallace's first gubernatorial inaugural address, "Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever." (Wallace later claimed that he had not read this part of the speech prior to delivering it at his first inauguration, a bitterly cold day by Montgomery standards, and that he had regretted it almost immediately, but the words will forever be associated with Wallace even more than their reputed author.)
Although Carter claimed to be part Cherokee, he was the publisher of a white supremacist newspaper and a leader in the Ku Klux Klan. It was under the white supremacist platform that Carter made an unsuccessful 1970 bid for governor of Alabama. He had edited the white supremacist publication The Southerner and was active in the white supremacist organizations at the time his novels were being published. He had expressed hate of Jews and African-Americans.
Carter's best-known fictional works are Gone to Texas: The Rebel Outlaw Josey Wales (1973) and The Education of Little Tree (1977). Clint Eastwood directed and starred in a 1976 film adaptation of the former, retitled "The Outlaw Josey Wales". In 1997, "The Education of Little Tree" was adapted into a made-for-tv movie.
Early Life and Political Career
Carter was born in Anniston, Alabama in 1925, the eldest of four children. He was was raised by his parents, Ralph and Hermione Carter, both of whom lived into Carter's adulthood.
Carter participated in various white supremacist organizations including the Ku Klux Klan. Carter was one of the founders of the North Alabama White Citizens' Council. He was also a speechwriter for George Wallace and is credited for helping create what many saw as Wallace's slogan, "Segregation today, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever", as noted above.
In 1970, Carter challenged Wallace in an unsuccessful attempt for the Democratic nomination for Governor. After losing, Carter relocated to Texas and then Florida where he adopted the pen name Bedford Forrest Carter, in honor of Southern Civil War general and Ku Klux Klan founder Nathan Bedford Forrest, and began his career as a novelist. Carter spent the remainder of his life successfully concealing his background.
In 1976, University of New Mexico Press published Carter's book The Education of Little Tree, a widely acclaimed story about a half-Cherokee boy Gundi Usdi (Little Tree) who was orphaned at an early age in the 1930's and sent off to live with his Cherokee grandparents. The state eventually takes him and places him in a boarding school where a minister attempts to assimilate him into white society until his grandfather rescues him. Carter claimed that he was Little Tree and the events of the book were autobiographical, and the book was marketed to young readers as a "memoir." The Education of Little Tree was critically acclaimed and won the 1991 American Booksellers Book of the Year (ABBY) award.
Carter completed one more novel, Watch for Me on the Mountain, a fictionalized biography of Geronimo. He was working on The Wanderings of Little Tree, a sequel to The Education of Little Tree and a screenplay version of the book when he died in 1979 from injuries he received in a fistfight.
After Carter's death, the fact that Forrest Carter was actually Asa Earl Carter became public and that many of the "autobiographical" incidents in The Education of Little Tree, such as the protagonist's being orphaned, were untrue. When news of Carter's background was revealed, the publisher of The Education of Little Tree reclassified the book as fiction. Since then teachers, parents, and school boards have been divided on whether to teach the book in public schools.
Controversy and criticism
In his personal life, Carter often claimed that he had Cherokee ancestry. However, members of the Cherokee nation have disputed this claim. They argue that the so-called "Cherokee" words and customs in "The Education of Little Tree" are inaccurate, and that the novel's "Cherokee" characters are stereotyped.
Several scholars and critics have agreed with this assessment, adding that Carter's treatment of Native Americans plays into the romantic but racist conceit of the "Noble Savage". This interpretation is consistent with Carter's apparent racism, but what it says about his success as a novelist is open to debate.
- PBS's People and Events: Asa Carter
- The Education of Little Tree and Forrest Carter
- The Handbook of Texas Online
- Forrest Carter and Little Tree
- Gone to Texas (1973)
- The Vengeance Trail of Josey Wales (1976)
- The Education of Little Tree (1976)
- Watch for Me on the Mountain (1978)
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