Ron Stallworth - CSPM

Ron Stallworth

Ron Stallworth had a remarkable story to tell. And after 32 years of police work in several states, he finally had time to tell it. His best-selling memoir was published in 2014 – and it didn’t take long for Hollywood to come calling. The award winning BlacKkKlansman film was “based on the true story” of Colorado Springs first Black Detective (not officer) who infiltrated the KKK. In 2019, Stallworth was asked to clarify fact from fiction in the movie. He replied politely, “It’s Hollywood, get over it.” But for any doubters of the primary storyline, he carries the laminated KKK card in his wallet.

– From the CSPM Curator of History

Do you think that a Black man could infiltrate the Ku Klux Klan? Well, that’s exactly what former Colorado Springs police officer Ron Stallworth did in 1979. Not only was Stallworth able to become a card-carrying member of the KKK recognized by then Grand Wizard David Duke he was also the first African American hired by the Colorado Springs Police Department in 1979. The activities of Ron Stallworth have been depicted in director Spike Lee’s Academy Award winning film BlacKkKlansman.

In the summer of 1972, Stallworth and his family moved to Colorado Springs where he took an interest in a career in law enforcement. While training as a cadet, Stallworth knew he eventually wanted to work undercover and his first assignments were to infiltrate key leaders in the black power movement. Stallworth was sent to spy on a Colorado Spring civil rights event featuring Stokely Carmichael where he garnished a reputation for successfully earning the trust of local civil rights activists. Later in 1979, after noticing an ad in a local newspaper advertising the creation of a new chapter of the Ku Klux Klan Stallworth, applied as a member using his own name.

He was soon contacted by a KKK member who Stallworth convinced that he was a white man who “hated blacks, Mexicans, Jews and Asians” and was “upset” about his sister marring a black man. Stallworth was told “you are just the kind of guy we are looking for”. During the conversation, Stallworth also learned that the new chapter of the Ku Klux Klan was being formed by a local ft. Carson soldier who he agreed to meet at a local bar. Being a black man it was obvious that Stallworth could not attend the meeting himself, so he sent a white narcotics officer in his place to meet the local Klan leader.

After Stallworth submitted an application to officially be recognized as a member of the KKK he did not hear back for some time, so he boldly decided to phone David Duke the Grand Wizard and national leader of the KKK. To Stallworth’s surprise Duke answered the phone himself and the two proceeded to have a conversation about their “shared” racial values demonizing people of color. During the conversation Duke told Stallworth that he would personally see to it that his application got processed and within a short period of time Stallworth received his official membership to the Ku Klux Klan complete with Duke’s signature.

For the next nine months Stallworth and his partner continued the operation infiltrating the Ku Klux Klan with Stallworth doing the talking on the phone while his white partner conducted face-to-face meetings wearing a wire. While undercover, the duo discovered various KKK plots to terrorize Colorado Springs minorities including a potential bombing at a local gay bar. Although this bombing never took place, it is depicted in the 2018 film BlacKkKlansman which takes liberties surrounding the event. However, according to Stallworth “In terms of the bombing, the local Klan people had been talking to me on the phone about wanting to bomb two gay bars”. Stallworth said, “The scene may seem gratuitous, but it’s based on conversations that I had with the KKK about actually carrying out a bombing in Colorado Springs.

After the Colorado Springs investigation into the Ku Klux Klan closed, Stallworth kept it a secret and told no one about his part in it. Regarding his role infiltrating the KKK Stallworth stated that he did not consider himself an activist but rather a law enforcement officer. Stallworth later transferred to the Utah Department of Public Safety where he retired in 2005 after working as an investigator for nearly 20 years. In 2014, Stallworth published a book titled Black Klansman about his experiences infiltrating the KKK in Colorado Springs. The book would later become the film of the same name. Stallworth now lives a quiet life and has stated about the experience that “when you see hate groups rear their nasty, filthy, ugly heads take every action you can to put a stop to it”.

Generously Submitted by Alex Archuleta, Historian

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