Arts & Culture

For Ron Stallworth, Infiltrating The KKK Was Just Part of The Job

The real-life detective whose story inspired Spike Lee’s movie Blackkklansman tells Houston Matters about the investigation and its relevance today.

Blackkklansman - Focus Features

When Ron Stallworth responded to a newspaper ad for the Ku Klux Klan, he said he was just a cop doing his job.

The job was in the intelligence division of the Colorado Springs Police Department, where Stallworth was the first African-American detective. What ensued became the inspiration for Spike Lee’s new movie, Blackkklansman, based on Stallworth’s memoir, Black Klansman: Race, Hate, and the Undercover Investigation of a Lifetime.

Over the course of his investigation, Stallworth had numerous conversations with white supremacists over the phone – including with former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke himself – and eventually gained membership in the organization (he still carries his membership card in his wallet to this day).

When it came time to meet face-to-face, one of Stallworth’s white colleagues would portray him in the field.

Ron Stallworth
Ron Stallworth as a detective in the 1970s and today.

He says the investigation helped prevent several cross burnings, gathered information on potential terrorist attacks, and identified two white supremacists who worked for the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD).

Stallworth will appear for a Q&A and book signing following a sold-out screening of the film Thursday, Aug. 23, at the Alamo Drafthouse in Katy.

In the audio above, the El Paso native tells Houston Matters producer Michael Hagerty about the investigation and his story’s relevance today.

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Michael Hagerty

Michael Hagerty

Senior Producer, Houston Matters

Michael Hagerty is the Senior Producer for Houston Matters. He has a degree in journalism from Abilene Christian University and has served as news director for NPR and PBS stations around Texas and The West, including: KUNR-FM in Reno, Nev.; KNPB-TV in Reno, Nev.; and KWBU-TV/FM in Waco, Texas. He...

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