26 January, 2021

[Review] Black Klansman: Race, Hate, and the Undercover Investigations of a Lifetime by Ron Stallworth

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Cover image from the goodreads website.

Series or Stand Alone: Stand Alone
Release Date: 5 June, 2018 (originally released May 13, 2014)
Publisher: Macmillan Audio
Genre: Non-Fiction/True Crime/Crime Investigations/Hate Crimes
Edition: Audiobook (available in hardback, eBook, and paperback)
Rating: ★★
Review Written: 4 September, 2020
Warnings: Strong Language, Mentions of Hate Crimes, Mentions of Death, Association with the KKK
The extraordinary true story of the black detective who goes undercover to investigate the KKK, the basis for the forthcoming major motion picture written and directed by Spike Lee and produced by Jordan Peele.

When detective Ron Stallworth, the first black detective in the history of the Colorado Springs Police Department, comes across a classified ad in the local paper asking for all those interested in joining the Ku Klux Klan to contact a PO box, Detective Stallworth does his job and responds with interest, using his real name while posing as a white man. He figures he'll receive a few brochures in the mail, maybe even a magazine, and learn more about a growing terrorist threat in his community.

A few weeks later the office phone rings, and the caller asks Ron a question he thought he'd never have to answer: "Would you like to join our cause?" This is 1978, and the KKK is on the rise in the United States. Its Grand Wizard, David Duke, has made a name for himself, appearing on talk shows and in major magazine interviews preaching a "kinder" Klan that wants nothing more than to preserve a heritage and to restore a nation to its former glory.

Ron answers the caller's question that night with a yes, launching what is surely one of the most audacious and incredible undercover investigations in history. Ron recruits his partner, Chuck, to play the "white" Ron Stallworth while Stallworth himself conducts all subsequent phone conversations. During the months-long investigation, Stallworth sabotages cross burnings, exposes white supremacists in the military, and even befriends David Duke himself.

Black Klansman is an amazing true story that unfolds like a crime thriller and a searing portrait of a divided America and the extraordinary heroes who dare to fight back.

See more by Ron Stallworth at his website.
I'll admit, I love history. It was my major in undergrad, and it's just fascinating. Given that I live in the Southeastern United States, it's also not surprising that I find the history of the KKK both repugnant and interesting (there's been 3 different incarnations of the KKK with the roots dating back to the 1860s after the end of the Civil War and the rise of the Jim Crowe Laws).

Honestly, I heard about this by the movie. It was an interesting topic, however I feel like the movie and subsequent press doesn't quite do the story justice. From listening to the book it was clear that the only time Ron Stallworth ever met the Grandwizard of the KKK in person was when he was acting as personal security detail for him during a visit. Still I thought I'd give the book a listen since it fell within my historical interests.

Honestly, the book was a good source of information, however the author reading caused it to drag just a bit. Also this was not a book I felt highly comfortable playing without headphones (too many uses of the 'N' word and it would be a lot of awkward explaining to my neighbors). The information was interesting, the deception was cunning, but the storytelling was bland. I realize that Mr. Stallworth wrote this book long after he finished this investigation and was going off his memory, but it dragged along.

All in all, I'd say this book is good for anyone interested in this subject of history.

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