How Did a Black Man Become Leader of the KKK?
In Ron Stallworth’s book Black Klansman he speaks out about his experience as a member of a Colorado chapter of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK). How did this African-American man go on to become leader of the KKK? This now-retired cop confessed that he went undercover in 1979 as a KKK member for a period of nine months in order to complete an investigation into the chapter.
His investigation originated when he answered an ad placed in the newspaper by a newly established KKK group in search of members. Stallworth, former Colorado Springs police sergeant, said he would always speak with local KKK members over the phone; whenever a face-to-face meeting was necessary he would send a white detective.
Over the course of a year Stallworth earned the trust of this hate group and was not only offered membership but was voted to become leader of the chapter. The undercover cop said he received a signed card by Grand Wizard David Duke stating the local chapter was so impressed with his work and loyalty that they wanted him to become one its top members. Stallworth said they took a unanimous vote and decided, because he was such a dedicated and loyal Klansman, they wanted him to become the leader of the Ku Klux Klan chapter.
When the retired sergeant was asked why he would risk his personal safety with such an investigation, he simply replied, “It was my job.” He admitted he was amazed no one ever picked up on the fact that they had been talking to two different voices. He handled all phone dialogues while his partner went to the meetings. The greatest challenge was to maintain the flow of conversation.
Stallworth calls the Klan investigation one of the most significant investigations he was ever involved in. This investigation revealed that Klan members were active in the military, including two at the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD). As a result these Klansmen controlled the triggers for nuclear weapons.
During the investigation the undercover cop was filled in on many intimidation activities along with planned cross burnings. Stallworth said during his time as a “Klansman” he intervened at least three cross burnings. His proudest accomplishment during his investigation is that no child ever had to wake up to a burning cross.
The KKK investigation was not the only time Stallworth was mistaken for a Caucasian man. In the late 1980s he worked for the Utah Department of Public Safety on gang activity. His report led to the formation of the Gang Narcotics Intelligence Unit – Utah’s first gang task force. Stallworth has been contacted many times by academics about his gang related “scholarly research.” One person said he was so impressed that a Caucasian Mormon in Utah could write such an impressive body of work on African-American gang culture.
This was amusing to Stallworth because he is neither a Mormon nor a white man. He did go to college but never finished. He still has about two and a half years to go in order to receive his bachelor’s degree. Even still, the former cop said his investigation of gangs is what he is most proud of during his career in Utah. Stallworth said this work has had a lasting impact on law enforcement.
Stallworth quietly disappeared and moved to Utah after he was offered leadership in the KKK. He recently retired from the Utah Department of Public Safety where he served for nearly 20 years as an investigator. For posing as an angry and hateful racist Stallworth explained he felt victimized by minorities and sprinkled his speech with racial slurs. However, as a souvenir Stallworth still carries his Ku Klux Klan membership card which was signed by Duke.
For a deeper look into how a black man was voted leader of the KKK check out his book titled Black Klansman. In this memoir Ron Stallworth speaks candidly about his experience as a member of a Colorado chapter of the Ku Klux Klan.
By: Cherese Jackson (Virginia)