Ron Stallworth of ‘BlacKkKlansman’ speaks on the campus of Wake Forest University

Ron Stallworth delivered the keynote address during Wake Forest University’s Journey’s to Success speakers series on Thursday, Feb. 7.

Ron Stallworth of ‘BlacKkKlansman’ speaks on the campus of Wake Forest University
February 14
00:30 2019

While looking through the local newspaper at his desk in the Fall of 1978, Ron Stallworth, a detective with the Colorado Springs Police Department, came across an ad looking for members to join the Ku Klux Klan (KKK).

Without even thinking, Stallworth picked up the phone and proceeded to make his case as to why he would make a good Klansman.

But what he didn’t tell his interviewer was that he was an undercover detective and that he was black.

Over the next seven months, through phone conversations and with help from his partner Chuck, who played the “white Ron Stallworth” for public appearances, Stallworth and the Colorado Springs Police Department infiltrated the KKK. The investigation helped sabotage three different cross burnings and acts of terrorism and exposed white supremacists in Colorado Springs who were enlisted in the military.

Stallworth’s book “Black Klansman: A Memoir” is the basis of the box office hit film “BlacKkKlansman” directed by Spike Lee.

As part of Wake Forest University’s Journeys to Success Speaker Series, last week Stallworth made a stop at Wait Chapel to discuss the investigation, his book, the film, and his relationship with well-known white supremacist David Duke.

When discussing the investigation, Stallworth said when he was in the moment he never thought about how significant the investigation would become. He said he never imagined his book being turned into a movie, let alone a “Spike Lee joint.”

“I didn’t really think about it, I was just conducting a police investigation. Now I’m finding out my investigation has resonated with people and they view it in a certain light. At the time it was happening, I didn’t see it that way. It was just another investigation that I was conducting,” said Stallworth. “Some people see it as a Civil Rights event or something with consequential value and I’m thankful for that but, at the moment we didn’t see it that way.”

Thanks to a mix-up with his official KKK membership card and countless phone calls, Stallworth was able to build a relationship with former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke. Stallworth said Duke felt comfortable talking to him on the phone and had no idea he was black. He said Duke often used racial slurs during their conversations and even felt comfortable enough to discuss his political agenda, which included plans for border patrol at the U.S.-Mexican Border.

“We talked about border watch. Donald Trump has his border issues going on right now which is impacting my city, El Paso, Texas, but with David Duke his idea of border control was to have members of the Klan go out to El Paso, Texas, and San Diego, California, with 30-30 scope rifles and shoot anyone who was trying to cross the Rio Grande River,” Stallworth said.

During his keynote address. Stallworth continued to highlight similarities between Duke and President Donald Trump. He said, “… The MAGA (Make America Great Again) hat is nothing more than a modern day Klan hood.

“When you see that hat and when you hear that phrase, it means take America back to a time where blacks and other people of color had to succumb to the white race, and white supremacy was in full bloom,” he said. “… That’s the America they want to go back to. And for the record, that America ain’t going to happen again.

“… A lot of things David Duke was telling me 40 years ago I heard it again in 2015 leading up to the 2016 election, some of it verbatim.”

Before wrapping up his address, Stallworth took questions from the crowd and after the event he stuck around for a book signing. After getting her copy of “Black Klansman: A Memoir” signed, city native Dorathea Pendergrass said Stallworth was courageous for doing what he did.

“It took a very heroic man to do something as dangerous as he did. He put his life on the line to gather important information to protect society,” said Pendergrass. “I saw the movie last year and when Wake Forest sent me the email, I put it on my calendar to come out and shake his hand.

“It’s good to see real life heroes who are willing to put their lives on the line to protect their community.”

Although he didn’t give up any details, Stallworth did mention that he is working on part two of his book. The book is expected to pick up where the first book (Black Klansman: A Memoir) finished.

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Tevin Stinson

Tevin Stinson

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