A Bizarre Chain of Events
In Colorado Springs in the summer of 1978, Ron Stallworth was working as the first African-American detective in the Colorado Springs Police Department. During a routine browse of the classifieds, he noticed a peculiar ad that revolved around the Ku Klux Klan looking to recruit new members. This ad would end up triggering a chain of events in Stallworth’s life that would give the world an inside look into the Klan and its members.
This story is truly fascinating.
Born in Chicago, Illinois on June 18, 1953, Stallworth was born into a life of poverty and violence due to the city’s rough and tough South Side. Thankfully, in an effort to give her children a chance in life, his mother moved the family to El Paso, Texas a cultural mecca close to the Texas/Mexico border.
Inspired by Neighbor
During his time growing up in El Paso, Stallworth lived across the street from one of the city’s first black police officers. This man was someone he really looked up to as a child and considered him to be the perfect role model. Unfortunately, in 1972 Stallworth and his family moved to Colorado Springs, but he would never forget that officer and how inspiring he was.
A New Journey
After high school, Stallworth joined the Colorado Springs Police Department as a cadet. He was one of just a few African American officers in the city. He was warned that racism still existed within the police force, but Stallworth was determined to be the best he could be. After working as a rookie for some time, he soon desired for a greater challenge and hoped to go undercover one day.
After a few years on the force, Stallworth’s dream eventually came true. He was assigned to work as a cover for civil rights activist Stokely Carmichael, who was speaking at a local nightclub. Excited about the idea of his first undercover job, he accepted it without hesitation.
The Rise of the Black Power Movement
During this time, the Black Power movement was on the rise, fueled by the Black Panther Party. They had been working to improve the quality of life for African Americans for years. Although they accomplished many victories for the community, racism was still alive and well in throughout the country.
White Supremacy on the Rise
Despite the civil rights movement gaining ground throughout the 1960s, the white supremacist organization, the Ku Klux Klan also grew. Founded in the 1860s, they were led by David Duke who was determined to revoke the rights of African Americans. While the Klan worked hard to attack activists, people like Carmichael were opening businesses and founding schools to better the lives of their community.
A Warning of Revolution
Although he was nervous about his undercover job, Stallworth’s first gig went off without a hitch. He even had a nice conversation with Carmichael, who gave him a stern warning that a revolution was about to take place in the near future. Stallworth did feel for the activists and their politics, but when it came to his role as a police officer, he would place that above all other things.
Working in Intelligence
Stallworth eventually landed the job of an intelligence detective in October of 1978 and spent most of his time reviewing the local media and making notations of suspicious activity. It would be during one of these monitoring sessions, he stumbled upon an advertisement that would change the course of his life forever.
A Strange Ad
Advertising for the local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan, the ad asked readers to reach out for further details and provided a P.O. Box address. Intrigued by the ad, Stallworth decided to pose as a white man and wrote a letter expressing his hatred for African Americans. He even signed his real name, never expecting to get a response.
Boy, was he wrong…
An Unexpected Response
Two weeks after he mailed the letter, Stallworth received a response from a gentleman who wanted to open a local branch of the Klan. He phoned, prying for information as to why Stallworth was so interested in joining the organization. Thanks to his detective skills, Stallworth was able to quickly come up with a response that was quite convincing.
Putting on the Show
Mustering up all the hate he could, Stallworth expressed his anger for minorities and stated he believed the Klan could help him end all the civil rights nonsense going on in the city. The man on the phone was impressed and told him he was a perfect candidate to join. He then invited him to meet in person. Of course, Stallworth was now in a precarious position. How could he possibly meet this man when he was black?
The Impersonation Begins
Realizing this was the opportunity of a lifetime, Stallworth brought on a white man to impersonate him for whenever he needed to meet with the Klan members. This would be the beginning of an amazing investigation that exposed the inner-workings of the Klan.
An Internal Investigation
For seven months, Stallworth infiltrated the ranks of the Klan. He learned about their daily dealings and even gained access to top-secret, sensitive intel. This allowed the detective to put a stop to a variety of hate crimes before they even took place.
Thwarting an Attack
One such hate crime involved the Klan targeting two gay clubs in Denver, Colorado. The plan was to detonate bombs in the clubs, but thankfully Stallworth was able to prevent the attacks. Another revelation during his investigation revealed that there was quite a few military personnel involved with the group.
No One Suspected
As the investigation continued, no one figured out Stallworth’s identity. He even spoke with David Duke on many occasions, bringing up the idea that someone could lie about being white over the phone. Duke refused to believe he would fall for that and said he would be able to tell if someone was African American.
It seems Duke wasn’t as intuitive as he thought.
Meeting David Duke
In one crazy twist of fate, Stallworth actually met David Duke while he was assigned to protect him at a Klan rally. It was an almost ironic situation, as Stallworth even had the chance to pose with Duke for a photograph. If Duke only knew he had been interacting with him for over seven months.
Enough is Enough
As the investigation pressed on, eventually Stallworth was asked to be the organizer of the local chapter and lead the group. At this point, his superior officers stepped in and demanded the investigation come to an end before he got in too deep. Despite wanting to continue, Stallworth knew it was for the best. All files he had collected were destroyed, but he did manage to keep his membership card.
Years Later…Telling His Story
After decades of service, Stallworth eventually retired from the Colorado Springs Police Department. He spent the latter half of his career working as a narcotics investigator and spent years in silence about his secret investigation. However, in 2014 he released a book titled Black Klansman where he went into detail about his time undercover with the Klan.
The Film Adaption
The book would be turned into a film in 2018 by director Spike Lee and received critical acclaim. Although the film took liberties with the story and tied it into the racial tensions going on today, Stallworth is just happy that the film is reminding audiences that racism is still alive and well today. According to Stallworth, the Klan is never gone, but he has hope that one day we will break through the divide.