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BlacKkKlansman's True Story: What's Real & What Was Changed

Blackkklasman David Duke and Ron Stallworth Photograph

Ron Stallworth Was David Duke's Personal Security And Did Get A Photo

The finale of BlacKkKlansman sees all the plot threads come together in sickeningly tense fashion. And, fitting of the true-with-specks-of-false nature of those threads, the third act plays out as a cocktail harsh reality and evocative fiction.

Startlingly true is pretty much everything that happens between Ron Stallworth and David Duke. He was appointed personal security for the Grand Wizard at an event where the undercover Chuck was also present (although the visit wasn't part of any ceremony and took place at a regular restaurant) and did ask for a polaroid to document the unbelievable event. This was taken by Flip/Chuck and Ron did put his arms around Duke, causing the expected enragement. The photo has since been lost.

There Was No KKK Terrorist Attack In Colorado Springs

Blackkklansman Terrorists

While the polaroid is real, the other big event in the finale - the failed terrorist attack - isn't; Walter and his group of radical Klansmen were fictitious, and there are no records of any bomb attacks in Colorado Springs. This is probably the biggest twist of the truth in BlacKkKlansman, with the final act hinging on an event that didn't happen. In reality, the photograph was the only point of conflict in Duke's visit, with it not serving as the culmination of the investigation. Given that the Black Power Movement's connection to the investigation and Flip's Jewish heritage were created for the movie, this shouldn't be too surprising.

That's not to say Lee is fully exaggerating. During his investigation, Ron and Chuck did hear talk of potential attacks, and after the sting folded there was a string of explosive-related arrests of Klansmen who were led by one of the men they had been in contact with.

The Investigation Was Successful... And Shutdown Suddenly

Blackkklansman Adam Driver and John David Washington

Taking away the terrorism aspect, though, the overall scope of the investigation is accurately shown in the film. Stallworth did successfully identify several military personnel as part of the Ku Klux Klan, including two working at NORAD. That said, the information was passed on not in a shady underpass deal, but involved visiting a high-security facility where the names were cross-referenced, and Ron never learned which of the suspects they were (although does know they were transferred to a cold, Northern military facility).

Despite that success, the investigation was shut down suddenly by the police chief without any real explanation. The film somewhat hints at the increased stakes of the bombing play a part, but makes clear it's a wider fear or reluctance within the department, which is accurate to Stallworth's experiences.

Ron Stallworth Kept His KKK Membership Card (And Didn't Reveal The Truth To David Duke)

Blackkksman kkk membership card

After the investigation ended, Ron Stallworth continued his police career in a normal manner and never discussed what had occurred until the publication of his book in 2014.

Because that's not a fully cathartic end-note, however, Spike Lee introduces two key moments to resolve the story. The first is Stallworth revealing to David Duke what's been going on over the phone, mocking his perceived ability to tell a white man's voice and confirming the cop from the photograph has been leading an investigation. The second is more divergent: the real Ron framed his KKK membership card as a lone reminder of the investigation, whereas the movie version tosses it at the earliest opportunity. Both changes shift the tone of the ending, but ultimately give a more satisfying conclusion... until Lee reminds that the Charlottesville riots show the Klan is very much alive and well in America.

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Moreso than most "true story" movies, BlacKkKlansman endeavors to stick as close to reality as possible. A series of thematically-motivated shifts lead to entirely fictitious events in the third act, but them being the product of Spike Lee does nothing to rob the film of its authenticity. After all, the real point of the movie is not about Colorado Springs, but the whole issue of racism across the entire country.

Next: Watch The BlacKkKlansman Trailer

Key Release Dates
  • BlacKkKlansman (2018) release date: Aug 10, 2018
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