- Courtesy Ron Stallworth
The truth-is-crazier-than-fiction biopic details how Stallworth and his white doppelganger infiltrated the Pikes Peak branch of the Ku Klux Klan. So far, the movie has received rave reviews internationally and currently holds a 95 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
The movie is adapted from Stallworth’s 2013 book, Black Klansman: Race, Hate, and the Undercover Investigation of a Lifetime. In a recent interview with the Indy, Stallworth says “the movie is faithful to the core facts of what actually happened, but the storyline is embellished to meet the needs of a Hollywood movie.”
The real story is that at age 19, Stallworth joined the Colorado Springs Police Department’s cadet program, which was designed to encourage recent high school graduates to join the Springs police force, which at the time was nearly all white and male.
In 1975, at age 22, Stallworth was promoted to become CSPD’s first black detective. Initially he worked in narcotics, but three years later, he was transferred to the 1978 Intelligence Unit that, among other things, combated organized crime and protected visiting VIPs. One of his regular tasks was to scan Colorado Springs’ two daily newspapers to see if anything warranted police attention.
- Courtesy Ron Stallworth
A Gazette-Telegraph classified advertisement in the personals section, among ads for dating services and abortion and adoption services, caught his eye as something worth monitoring: “Ku Klux Klan is Forming. For information P.O. Box 4771, Colorado Springs, CO, 80903.”
Stallworth responded to the ad, writing that he was sick and tired of having “Niggers taking things over.” He signed his real name, and included an untraceable CSPD phone number and mailing address. To his surprise, Kenneth O’Dell, the local Klan leader, called him on the secure CSPD phone line. Stallworth told the Klansman, “My sister is dating a black man, and every time he puts his filthy black hands on her pure white body, I cringe.” O’Dell responded, “You’re just the kinda guy we want. How soon can we meet?”
- Gazette-Telegraph, November 15,1978
Stallworth had a white undercover officer pose as him during in-person meetings, wearing a wireless body transmitter so the real Stallworth could listen in. The ensuing seven-month undercover operation prevented several planned cross burnings and revealed that local soldiers, including NORAD personnel with top-secret security clearances, were active Klan members. The CSPD also learned about Klan plans to blow up two gay bars, including the Hide & Seek on Colorado Avenue.
Joe Brady, who co-owned the Hide & Seek, says “Back then, the Police never informed me about any potential bomb threats from the KKK, but it doesn’t surprise me. It was open season on gays and lesbians back then, especially in the Springs.”
Poetic license (How the film and book differ)
When the local Klan leader wanted to meet with Stallworth, a white undercover police officer went in his stead. In the movie, the white officer, Flip, played by Adam Driver, was Jewish. In reality, he was not. Stallworth says this element was added to add create plot tension.
In the film, Felix, the second in command in the local Klan chapter, aggressively asks Flip if he is a cop or Jewish. Pointing a gun at Flip’s head, Felix threatens to examine Flip’s penis to see if he is “circumstanced.” Again — fiction. Stallworth says no guns were ever pointed at him during this investigation, and the Klan never cast doubt on his or his partner’s identities.
Despite what the movie claims, the Klan did not steal any C4 explosives from Fort Carson. In addition, there was no known attempt to blow up the Colorado College Black Student Union. And CC’s BSU president never dated Stallworth, because she was a fictional love-interest added to spice up the movie.
- Focus Features
The Aug. 1, 2018 movie release date wasintentionally scheduled to coincide with thefirst anniversary of the white supremacistrally in Charlottesville.
According to Stallworth, the movie was shotin New York, because Colorado Springs didnot offer similar financial incentives.
In the 1970s, Stallworth was one of about4,000 students enrolled at El Paso CommunityCollege. The college, now named PikesPeak Community College, has about 20,000students. Stallworth took Police Sciencecourses, which are now called CriminalJustice classes.
The investigation was not curtailed because an ex-con discovered Flip’s identity, as the movie implies. Instead, it was stopped after the local Klan wanted Stallworth to become the Colorado Springs KKK chapter president. The CSPD Police Chief at the time decided that it might become a public relations disaster if it ever leaked that his officers (even undercover ones) held leadership roles in the Klan.
Both in the movie and in reality, KKK Grand Wizard David Duke and Stallworth had dozens of phone conversations, including one where Stallworth asked Duke about expediting his KKK membership card. Duke later signed his certificate. During one of their conversations, Duke brags that he could always tell when he was talking to a Nigger on the phone. Near the end of the movie, Stallworth informs Duke that a black man had in fact duped him. In real life, Duke, “didn’t find out that a black man made a fool of him until 2006,” when nationally syndicated newspaper columnist Leonard Pitts Jr. asked Duke about what transpired. Duke initially denied that he had any conversations with Stallworth. But after being shown Stallworth’s membership card that he had personally signed, Duke told Pitts: “Well we didn’t do anything illegal, so what’s the big deal?”
The KKK and the IndyBefore launching the Colorado Springs Independent, we were seeking a name for our forthcoming newsweekly. The two finalists were The Observer and The Independent. Initially, we went with the Observer, because I did not want to be associated with a statewide Klan paper called the Colorado Springs Independent that published out of Old Colorado City during the 1920s and ‘30s.
Then, the Peterson Air Force Space Observer threatened to sue us for trademark infringement. We had moved into the Independence Building (now part of the Mining Exchange hotel) and our graphic artist, Mark Raab, designed a cool Indy “I” logo, so the Independent it was. (In an ironic twist, the Peterson Air Force Space Observer is now managed by the Colorado Publishing House, which also owns this newspaper.)
Around 1996, the local branch of the Klan sought to purchase an ad in the Indy for a rally they were planning in Colorado. Back then, and continuing today, the Independent’s policy is that advertising does not impact editorial content, and vice versa. Accordingly, we apply no “politically correct” litmus test to what an advertiser can promote, so long as the ad is not deceptive or fraudulent. But we did not want to earn money from the KKK, so we published the ad, but turned over the Klan’s check to Jerome Page at the Pikes Peak Urban League.
To learn more about the Klan in Colorado Springs history, read our past coverage here: