Colorado Springs, CO

The first Black detective in Colorado Springs famously infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan

Colorado Jill
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(Colorado Springs, CO) Many remarkable individuals have called Colorado Springs home, including Ron Stallworth, who made history as the first Black police detective in the city. He also successfully infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan.

In 1972, at age nineteen, Ron Stallworth began his career in law enforcement as a police cadet with the Colorado Springs Police Department. He applied for the cadet program to earn money for college and pursue his dream of being a high school Physical Education teacher.

Two years later, Stallworth made history as the first Black man to graduate from the city's police cadet program. In his memoir, Stallworth shares, "I loved putting on a uniform each day. I loved the feeling of being part of a team." (p. 16) He decided to forgo his plan of becoming a teacher and opted instead to pursue law enforcement.

Stallworth began his career as a patrolman, but his goal from the start was to be a detective.

Shortly after becoming a police officer, Stallworth was asked to help in an undercover assignment involving the Black Panthers. This opportunity led to an official position as an undercover narcotics detective, making him the first Black police detective in Colorado Springs.

One of Stallworth's new responsibilities was to scan local newspapers for evidence of subversive activity that might compromise the safety of the Colorado Springs community. This is how he discovered a classified ad from the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) in October 1978.

The local chapter of the Klan was actively recruiting new members through the newspaper.

Using his real name, Stallworth replied to the ad expecting to receive pamphlets or recruitment information through the mail. Instead, he got a phone call from the organizer of the Colorado Springs KKK chapter.

After speaking on the phone, the organizer requested to meet Stallworth in person. A White undercover officer went in his place, picking up the membership application that Stallworth would complete. Stallworth was accepted into the organization, receiving an official membership card and certificate.

A Black police detective from Colorado Springs became a card-carrying member of the Klan.

Over the next several months, Stallworth developed relationships with several high-ranking KKK members, including David Duke, the organization's "Grand Wizard."

Stallworth cleverly gained the trust of Klan members, learning valuable intel about planned events locally and around the country.

In the conversations, he [Duke] would provide details as to their rally point, specific objectives of their rally, planned counter-response measures, which were always violence-based in spite of their claim of being a nonviolent group, and efforts against police response. As soon as possible after such conversations, I would call the appropriate law enforcement agency in that city's jurisdictional area and alert them to Duke's information." (Stallworth, 2014, p.108)

With his insider information, Stallworth was able to interrupt several planned cross-burnings in Colorado Springs. The six-month-long KKK investigation was a career-defining moment for him.

In 2014, Stallworth published a memoir about his experiences titled, "The Black Klansman: Race, Hate, and the Undercover Investigation of a Lifetime." The book was adapted into a movie, "BlacKkKlansman," in 2018.

The biographical film, directed by Spike Lee, was well-received, earning six Academy Award nominations and winning the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay.

Stallworth, a local hero whose remarkable story made it to the big screen, is one of many notable Black residents in the history of Colorado Springs.

This February is Black History Month, and you can learn more about the achievements, inspiration, and sacrifices of Black community members in the Pikes Peak Region by visiting the Cultural Corridor on Pikes Peak Avenue and the Colorado Springs Pioneer Museum.

The African American Historical and Genealogical Society of Colorado Springs also has a wealth of information about the region's Black community, including Ron Stallworth's original KKK membership card and official certificate. The museum is open to guests and located at the Westside Community Center in Colorado Springs (1628 W. Bijou Street).

Ron Stallworth's remarkable achievements infiltrating the Ku Klux Klan are a testament to his courage, dedication to justice, and commitment to making the world safer.

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Jill is based in Colorado and writes about hidden gems, history, the great outdoors, and local events.

Colorado Springs, CO

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