Ron Stallworth

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Ron Stallworth
Ron Stallworth.jpg
Stallworth in 2019
Born (1953-06-18) June 18, 1953 (age 67)
EducationColumbia College (Salt Lake City)
Known forInfiltration of the KKK
Notable work
Black Klansman (2014)
Police career
DepartmentColorado Springs Police
Service years1972–1980
RankDetective
Civilian police career
DepartmentUtah Public Safety
Service years1980–2005
RankSergeant
WebsiteOfficial website

Ron Stallworth (born June 18, 1953) is an American retired police officer who infiltrated the ranks of the Ku Klux Klan in Colorado Springs, Colorado, in the late 1970s. He was the first African-American detective in the Colorado Springs Police Department.[1][2]

The 2018 film BlacKkKlansman is based on his experience infiltrating the Ku Klux Klan, where he is portrayed by John David Washington.

Early life[edit]

Stallworth was born[3] in Chicago in 1953, and raised in El Paso, after his mother moved the family there. According to a statement in his book, he said "My mother moving our family to El Paso was the best decision she ever made, as Chicago was a far cry from the poverty, gangs, and conflict in city's South Side, where I would have come of age if she had not left."[4]

Stallworth graduated from Austin High School in 1971, where he was both a member of the student council, and of a district-wide advisory board; he was also voted "most popular".[5]

Colorado Springs Police Department[edit]

In the summer of 1972, Stallworth's family moved to Colorado Springs, where he first took an interest in a career in law enforcement.[1] He joined the department as a cadet in November of that year.

According to Stallworth himself, he knew, even as a cadet, that he eventually wanted to work as an undercover police officer. His first undercover assignment came when Stokely Carmichael was invited to speak at a Colorado Springs nightclub with a black clientele. Stallworth was asked if he would go undercover to observe the speech, and he eagerly accepted the assignment, being subsequently assigned to the intelligence section of his department.[1]

Infiltration of the Klan[edit]

In 1979, Stallworth noticed a classified ad in the local paper seeking members to start a new chapter of the Ku Klux Klan in the city. He responded to the posting via mail to a P.O. box, and provided them an address and phone number. A Klan member phoned Stallworth, who then posed as a racist white man who "hated blacks, Jews, Mexicans, Asians".[6] During the conversation, he learned that the man founding the new chapter was a soldier at nearby Fort Carson. Stallworth arranged to meet the man at a local bar and sent a white undercover narcotics officer to stand in for him at the meeting, wired to record any conversations.[6]

The subterfuge was a success, and Stallworth continued to pose as a Klan member for the next nine months, usually talking on the phone with other members and sending the white officer in his place when face-to-face meetings were necessary. Stallworth phoned David Duke, who was the Klan's Grand Wizard at the time, at his headquarters in New Orleans to ask about the status of his membership application. Duke apologized for the delay in getting the application processed and promised to see it personally that Stallworth's application was processed and sent to him. Within a short time, Stallworth's Klan certificate of membership arrived in the mail with Duke's signature. He framed the certificate and hung it on his office wall, where it stayed for years.[6]

Retirement[edit]

After the investigation into the Klan closed, Stallworth kept it a secret and told no one about his role in it. He transferred to the Utah Department of Public Safety, where he retired in 2005 after working as an investigator for nearly 20 years. After retirement he earned a bachelor's degree in criminal justice from Missouri's Columbia College's Salt Lake City Campus in 2007.[7][8]

In January 2006, Stallworth gave an interview to Salt Lake City's Deseret News in which he described his infiltration and investigation of the Klan[9] and later disclosed that the investigation revealed several members were on active duty with the U.S. Armed Forces, including two individuals posted at NORAD (the North American Aerospace Defense Command, which provides aerospace warning, air sovereignty, and protection for Northern America). The two members at NORAD were reassigned and Stallworth was told that they were given remote postings, "somewhere like the North Pole or Greenland".[10]

In 2014, Stallworth published a book titled Black Klansman about his investigative experience. For his source material, he used a casebook that he assembled during the assignment and later kept for himself after it was over.[11] The book was taken to QC Entertainment by producer Shaun Redick to make a film based on it called BlacKkKlansman. Spike Lee signed on as both director and co-producer while Jordan Peele signed on as standard producer. Stallworth was represented on the deal by his manager, Andrew Frances of Adwater & Stir.[12] The film was released nationwide on August 10, 2018, and in select theaters two weeks earlier, with John David Washington playing the role of Stallworth, alongside Adam Driver as Flip Zimmerman, the white undercover officer, Topher Grace as David Duke and Ryan Eggold, Corey Hawkins, Alec Baldwin, and Harry Belafonte.[13][14] BlacKkKlansman won the Grand Prize of the Jury at the Cannes Film Festival[15] and was also nominated for six Academy Awards, winning an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay.[16]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Taylor, M. (May 30, 2014). "The Black Undercover Cop Who Infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan in Colorado". Vice. Retrieved May 15, 2018.
  2. ^ Simon, S. (June 9, 2018). "How A Black Detective Infiltrated The KKK". NPR. Retrieved June 24, 2018.
  3. ^ Ross, Monique (August 7, 2018). "The black cop who infiltrated the KKK". ABC News. Stallworth persevered, and was officially sworn in on June 18, 1974, his 21st birthday.
  4. ^ Stallworth, Ron (2014). Black Klansman: Race, Hate, and the Undercover Investigation of a Lifetime. Flatiron Books. p. 9. ISBN 978-1-250-29903-1.
  5. ^ "AHS 2018 Outstanding Ex". Austin High School Alumni Association.
  6. ^ a b c Gordon, E. (February 16, 2006). "How a Black Cop Joined the KKK". NPR. Retrieved May 15, 2018.
  7. ^ Karas, Michelle. "'Black Klansman' author Ron Stallworth speaks to capacity crowd at Pikes Peak Community College". Colorado Springs Gazette.
  8. ^ McKinney, Roger (August 30, 2018). "Ron Stallworth, the real black Klansman, visits Columbia". Columbia Daily Tribune.
  9. ^ Vogrin, Bill (May 21, 2014). "Ex-Colorado Springs cop recalls his time as a black member of Ku Klux Klan". The Gazette. Archived from the original on October 24, 2020. Retrieved May 15, 2018.
  10. ^ Bulkeley, D. (January 12, 2006). "Black sergeant was 'loyal Klansman'". Deseret News. Retrieved May 15, 2018.
  11. ^ Dickerson, J. (May 13, 2014). "Ron Stallworth, Police Sergeant, Chronicles His Experience As Undercover KKK Member". Huffington Post. Retrieved May 15, 2018.
  12. ^ Kit, B. (September 8, 2017). "'Black Klansman' KKK Thriller in the Works From Spike Lee, Jordan Peele". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved May 15, 2018.
  13. ^ Johnson, T. (May 15, 2018). "Spike Lee's true-story thriller 'BlacKkKlansman' debuts to standing ovation at Cannes Film Festival". NBC News. Retrieved May 15, 2018.
  14. ^ Brown, D. L. (August 10, 2018). "'BlacKkKlansman': How black detective Ron Stallworth infiltrated the Colorado Klan". Washington Post. Retrieved August 13, 2018.
  15. ^ "Festival de Cannes Feature Films". Retrieved September 3, 2018.
  16. ^ "Spike Lee Wins First Competitive Oscar for 'BlacKkKlansman,' Gives Powerful Speech About Slavery". Retrieved February 24, 2014.

External links[edit]