Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 342
Black Klansman by Ron Stallworth is the memoir of an African-American policeman who posed as a Ku Klux Klan (KKK) member in the late 1970s. At the same time, he was launching an undercover investigation into the group and successfully duping its leader, David Duke, by having a fellow white officer pose as him. It is important not to confuse the book with the 2018 Spike Lee movie BlacKkKlansman, which was an adapted version of the book.
The book’s main characters are as follows:
Ron Stallworth is an African American policeman who infiltrates the Ku Klux Klan in 1970s Colorado after answering an ad in a local newspaper seeking members to start a new KKK chapter in Colorado Springs. He was the police department’s first African American police officer and detective.
Chuck is Ron’s Caucasian law enforcement partner who impersonates him at meetings so KKK members are unaware of Ron’s true identity. The real name and identity of the officer who pretends to be Ron is not revealed.
David Duke is the Ku Klux Klan leader, or Grand Wizard, during the time Ron was posing as a member. When Ron calls him to check on the status of his membership application, Duke personally makes sure the certificate of membership is processed, and the two men continue to talk off and on during the timeframe in which Ron is doing his investigation.
Ken O'dell is the local KKK organizer and soldier at Fort Carson, Colorado who contacts Ron after receiving his mail request to join the group.
Stokeley Carmichael is the Black Panther leader (later known as Kwame Ture after moving to Ghana and changing his name in 1969) who speaks at a rally that Ron is asked to infiltrate as part of an undercover assignment.
Officer Ed is a fellow officer who hears about Ron’s undercover operation and also tries to infiltrate the local KKK chapter to thwart Ron’s investigation.
Sergeant Trapp is the sergeant who gives Ron the authorization and support to launch the secret KKK investigation.