IOWA CITY — The story of a black Colorado Springs detective who in the 1970s infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan with the help of his partner as a surrogate enraptured movie audiences and wowed Hollywood critics last year in its telling through the biopic “BlacKkKlansman.”
That movie, directed by Spike Lee, was based on the 2014 memoir “Black Klansman,” written by Ron Stallworth, who lived the story as the first African-American police officer and detective with the Colorado Springs Police Department.
Stallworth, who today is 65, will visit Iowa City later this month to talk about his experiences — including his methods for infiltrating the infamous American hate group. He’s scheduled to speak at The Englert Theatre at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 23. The event, hosted by the University of Iowa Lecture Committee, is free and open to the public.
His visit comes at a time of raised racial tension across the country, within both political and law enforcement realms. The University of Iowa, like many of its peers, has been public about its efforts to increase diversity on campus and improve the cultural climate.
A fall Board of Regents enrollment report indicated its largest ever racial and ethnic minority numbers in 2018 — with 11,729 students across its three public universities, or 15.3 percent of the total.
But the University of Iowa continues to receive complaints about racial discrimination among its community members, and it remains on the hunt for a permanent chief diversity officer, after Georgina Dodge more than a year ago resigned.
During his visit later this month, Stallworth is expected to expound on details from his memoir, which tells of his groundbreaking undercover work infiltrating the local Ku Klux Klan chapter. He collaborated with his white partner to sabotage the group’s cross burnings, expose white supremacists in the military and combat domestic terrorism.
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Stallworth, who was raised in Texas and educated at Columbia College, also befriended KKK leader David Duke and later led an undercover investigation into anti-KKK protesters with the Progressive Labor Party.
The Spike Lee movie, produced by Jordan Peele, came out in August 2018. It’s received numerous awards and recently was nominated for high-profile honors, including best picture, director, actor and supporting actor at the Golden Gloves.
Stallworth has received awards himself, including the 1998 Outstanding National Leadership Lifetime award. After his talk in Iowa City, Stallworth will sign books that will be available for sale.
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