Real “Black Klansman” speaks at Englert

A couple weeks ago, former Colorado Springs police officer Ron Stallworth came to speak at the Englert in Iowa City. Stallworth is known for his infiltration of the KKK in 70’s.


UI Lecture Committee

The UI lecture committee staff poses for a photo with Ron after the event.

Harry Westergaard, Arts Editor, Co-Copy Editor

“Sounds like a movie, right?” Ron Stallworth quipped multiple times to a packed house at the Englert while recounting his experiences infiltrating the Ku Klux Klan in the 1970’s. Stallworth spoke at 7:30 pm on Wednesday, Jan. 23 on behalf of the University of Iowa Lecture Committee. As with all lecture committee events, admission was free. Long before the designated start time, a sizable line had already taken shape outside the Englert.

Stallworth’s story has become something of a modern legend. He was one of the first black police officers in Colorado Springs when he joined their police force. In 1978, he started the now-famous infiltration of the Klan by answering an ad he saw in the newspaper. After establishing contact with them over the phone (using his real name), he recruited a white coworker to stand in for him at Klan meetings. Together they prevented three cross burnings, which are listed as domestic acts of terrorism. “I know because I was invited to take part in two of them,” Stallworth added in his droll, conversational manner.

In 2014 he wrote a memoir based on the investigation titled “Black Klansman.” The story has gained newfound exposure through film adaptation, “BlacKkKlansman,” directed by prolific filmmaker Spike Lee. The film was nominated for six academy awards including best picture.

At the Englert, Stallworth walked the audience through his work in the Klan investigation. His delivery was often reminiscent of a standup comedian, garnering laughs from the audience at his dry wit and self awareness about how stranger-than-life his experiences really were.

In addition to recounting the investigation, Stallworth also peppered a few political charged asides throughout his talk. “If this is an example of white supremacy, we have nothing to be worried about,” he said while describing the type of men they were dealing with in the Klan. This was greeted by uproarious laughter and applause from the audience.

At around 8:23 p.m., Stallworth took questions from the audience, many of which had to do with the film, details about the investigation or current events.

After the event was over, he signed copies of his book on stage. In addition to this, he also introduced a screening of the Spike Lee film at 10:00 p.m. at FilmScene. Earlier in the day, he took questions from journalists on a live panel with KRUI.

Stallworth’s story is just as relevant now as it was in the 70’s and both his book and the film force us to examine the current state of affairs in the United States. The book is available for sale at Prairie Lights and Iowa Book, while the film will be returning to select theaters because of it’s academy award nominations.