Unmasking the Klansman

The Double Life of Asa and Forrest Carter

Unmasking the Klansman

The Double Life of Asa and Forrest Carter

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  • Description

Confederate Ghost Dancer reads like a work of fiction but is a biography of one of the South's most notorious Klansmen. Asa Carter was a racist and anti-Semite from north Alabama who led a KKK group that fire-bombed a Freedom Riders' bus, assaulted voting rights activists, and committed other atrocious acts of racial violence. The details of Klansman Carter's life reveal the carefully planned attempts of white supremacists to derail the civil rights movement and the depraved mindset that led him and others to resist a changing America.

Asa Carter surfaced publicly in 1963 as the ghostwriter of George C. Wallace's infamous inauguration speech which vowed: segregation now, tomorrow, forever; and then he dropped out of sight. Few knew that he had taken up a second life as a screenwriter and novelist. Taking the pen name Forrest Carter, he published two Westerns, including "The Rebel Outlaw: Josey Wales" that Clint Eastwood made into the 1976 hit movie. After the Eastwood film was released, the New York Times revealed that "Forrest Carter" was actually Asa Earl Carter, the segregationist. Another of Carter's books was The Education of Little Tree, which the author fraudulently purported to be an autobiographical tale of an Indian boy and his grandparents.

Dan Carter (no relation to Asa Carter) learned of the fascinating and contradictory threads of Asa Earl Carter's double lives while researching his book on George C. Wallace, The Politics of Rage. Although he was interested in writing about Asa/Forrest Carter, he knew few sources would talk on record. Putting his research on the back burner, he followed the occasional lead in the years to come. In 2019 and 2021 he gained access to a trove of interviews conducted at a time when many of the principals in the story were still alive. Those materials and his original research from the 1990s finally brought Asa Carter's story into focus, and Confederate Ghost Dancer is the result.

About the Author/Editor

DAN CARTER is the University of South Carolina Educational Foundation Professor Emeritus. The author and editor of more than forty scholarly articles and seven books including Scottsboro: A Tragedy of the American South and The Politics of Rage: George Wallace, The Origins of the New Conservatism and the Transformation of American Politics, Carter has received eight major literary prizes including the Lillian Smith, Bancroft, and Robert Kennedy awards as well as a special citation in nonfiction from the Mystery Writers of America.