Real Leaders with Roshini: Original Black Klansman Ron Stallworth shares his story of infiltrating the KKK and his thoughts on the movie

Stallworth infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan by pretending to be white and interested in membership (over the phone)

Real Leaders with Roshini
May 23, 2019 - 3:47 pm

Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images

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In Episode #14 of Real Leaders with Roshini, we go back in time to October 2018. Roshini talked with Ron Stallworth just before his visit to Minneapolis and ahead of the movie awards season. Stallworth's New York Times bestseller, Black Klansman: Race, Hate, and the Undercover Investigation of a Lifetime, had been made into a movie by Jordan Peele and Spike Lee. The world didn't yet know the movie would soon get nominated for Golden Globe and Academy Awards.

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As the first black police officer in Colorado Springs, Colorado, in the early 1970s, Stallworth infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan doing undercover work by pretending to be white and interested in membership. Local KKK leaders bought his interest and his phone conversations. Stallworth sent his police partner and "white avatar" Chuck into the field as the white Ron whenever in-person meetings necessitated. Stallworth and his team worked undercover in this way for seven and a half months. They believe their intel prevented several cross burnings. The investigation would have continued longer, but Stallworth's police chief shut it down when the local chapter asked Ron to become its new chapter president.

Sometimes called the Jackie Robinson of his time, Stallworth originally became an officer to earn enough money to go to college. Who could have imagined then how his story would become a book and a critically acclaimed movie? John David Washington played Stallworth in the film adaptation. Stallworth was exuberant in his appraisal: "John did an excellent job of portraying the 25-year-old me and is a fellow Stallworth brother," he said.

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