The Guardian

The black detective who infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan

The local KKK leader thought he’d found an enthusiastic new recruit. In fact, he’d inadvertently signed up a black policeman. Ron Stallworth reveals the often hilarious saga that has now become a Spike Lee filmSpike Lee: ‘This guy in the White House has given the green light for the Klan’
‘My sergeant would sometimes be laughing so hard that he’d have to excuse himself from the room’: Ron Stallworth. Photograph: Christ Chavez for the Observer

It is late October, 1978, in Colorado Springs when Ken O’Dell, a closet member of the newly resurgent Ku Klux Klan, receives an encouraging sign that his strategy of placing ads in the personal section of the local paper for new recruits has met with some success. Ken has been sent a letter from a man called Ron Stallworth. Ron, he says in his letter, wants to “further the cause of the white race” – and to join the Klan. Before long the two men are in enthusiastic telephone contact. Ken, who loathes blacks, Jews, Catholics and any other minority he can think of, sees Ron as a kindred spirit. Indeed, Ken is so impressed by Ron that, over the coming months, he will not only make sure that Ron gains membership and full access to the Klan, but he’ll even tout him as a future leader of the local chapter. Unfortunately for Ken, there are a couple of things about Ron he doesn’t know –and won’t know until 28 years later when Ron reveals them in a newspaper interview. First, Ron is an undercover police officer. Second – and this never fails to crack Ron up every time he thinks of it – Ron is black. “I was having a lot of fun,” he says.

The story of how a black police officer infiltrated the KKK is at first so hard to wrap your mind around that you may question how it can possibly be true. But once you’ve taken account of the

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