Book vs. Movie Review: BlacKkKlansman

Liam Robins

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Note: This article contains spoilers for BlacKkKlansman, both the book and the movie.


BlacKkKlansman is a memoir of Ron Stallworth about his time working for the Colorado Springs Police Department (CSPD) during the 1970s. Ron was the first African-American to work in the CSPD, and while working there, he had the task of gathering information about and stopping the spread of hate groups, such as the Ku Klux Klan*, in the town of Colorado Springs.

To get information in the KKK, he joined the local chapter of that group over the phone. Being black, Ron couldn’t just go to a Klan meeting, so he made a plan with a coworker, Flip Zimmerman, wherein Ron would be the “voice” of the operation and speak over the phone and Flip would be the “body” of the operation and physically attend den meetings. Working within the KKK, the CSPD was able to acquire information about the Klan, Klan cross burnings** and other white supremacist groups, sometimes up to the national level.

Ron was so successful that he, as a black man, was able to get an official KKK membership and form an over-the-phone friendship with David Duke, the Grand Wizard of the KKK at the time. Eventually, despite its success, the operation was cancelled due to the CSPD deciding that enough information had been gathered and that continued involvement would not accomplish anything.

The above summary is intentionally non-detailed for several reasons. It was written that way to give those reading this article an opportunity to read/watch BlacKkKlansman for themselves and still see new things, but primarily because of the immense differences between the book and the movie.

Those two versions of the BlacKkKlansman story differ wildly. In terms of mood/genre, the book is serious and seemingly devoted to just retelling Ron Stallworth’s experiences; the movie is a dramedy (at times it is comedic; at others dramatic). The main differences, however, are in plot.

In the book, there is no action-packed, dramatic action; the story is, in effect, a more detailed version of the above summary. Presumably to make up for lack of such action, the movie fabricates many things, including but not limited to a Klan member suspicious of Flip, a romantic partner of Ron, an abusive officer within the CSPD, a bomb plot, instances of police brutality and racism, a successful cross burning, details of anti-Klan social action groups and entirely new characters.

As for my personal opinion, I believe that BlacKkKlansman is a book worth reading but not worth making a movie out of; it is interesting, but not “motion-picture interesting.” That is not to say that the movie is poorly-made or not worth watching. To the contrary, it is an inspiring and well-produced piece of media and certainly one of the best dramedies of 2018. BlacKkKlansman is a movie worth watching, though it should be treated as historical fiction instead of actual cinematic historiography.



*The Ku Klux Klan, or KKK, is a white supremacist hate group. Its mission is to protect the white race from non-whites, who it considers inferior and sub-human. Led by a Grand Wizard and organized into dens, the KKK reached its peak popularity and influence in the early 20th Century, though with roots tracing back to the Civil War and the group still existing today.

**Cross burnings are events organized and performed by the KKK wherein Klan members light a cross on fire with the intention of intimidating groups which it opposes.