The Reconstruction of Asa Carter explores the life and legacy of the best-selling author of The Outlaw Josey Wales and The Education of Little Tree.
Published in 1976, Little Tree, billed as a “true story,” recounts the idyllic life of an orphaned Native American boy learning the Way of the Cherokee from his sage grandparents in the hills of Tennessee. The book was met with great critical acclaim and was lauded for its authentic portrayal of the American Indian experience. It was also credited with being the seminal work of Native American literature. It later turned out, however, that The Education of Little Tree was not only a complete fabrication, but also that it was authored by a notorious white supremacist and Ku Klux Klan leader, Asa Earl Carter, who penned George Wallace’s infamous 1963 “Segregation now! Segregation forever!” speech.
Told through the voices of those who knew Forrest/Asa best, The Reconstruction of Asa Carter includes insights from Forrest/Asa’s friends, colleague, and members of George Wallace’s inner circle, thereby providing unprecedented access into the life of this very enigmatic man. In order to add an historical context to the search for Forrest/Asa’s identity, The Reconstruction of Asa Carter incorporates the reflections of several scholars and historians who have been following this story for decades. Finally, scholars and writers move from the journalistic and biographical questions about the nature of Carter’s identity shift and Carter’s place in the history of the civil rights movement, to larger questions about the nature of artistry (is it possible for a committed racist to write a book that contains nuanced ethnic characters?) and reflections on how Asa Carter’s legacy has affected the public consciousness.
The Reconstruction of Asa Carter focuses on Asa Carter’s ethnic self-reinvention, as demonstrated both in his life and in his best-selling “autobiography.” The film traces his path from birth to rebirth, from notorious segregationist to celebrated Native American novelist. Much more than a simple biographical portrait, The Reconstruction of Asa Carter lends perspective to current discussions about race, ethnicity, identity, and authenticity.
- Douglas NewmanProducer/Director
- Marco RicciProducer/Director
- Laura BrowderProducer