Testimonials:[Share Your Story]
Stapleton Resident since 2011, Isabella Bird Community School parent
This initiative hasn’t been a priority of mine and I haven’t taken an active role in it, but because we are being asked to vote, I support it. Names hold meaning. We named our son Micah in hopes that he will live into his name – to be just, to love mercy, and to walk humbly. Our family takes an active role in building a compassionate and inclusive community and renaming Stapleton has become a piece of that puzzle. A vote in favor of renaming isn’t going to solve our deeper tensions, but it would be a significant symbol that our neighborhood holds the posture of teachability and has the heart of willingness to address systemic racism. The contention and divisiveness that has come out because of this vote is disheartening. Regardless of the outcome, our family will continue to engage in and lift up this neighborhood that we have come to deeply love over our last eight years here.
Executive Committee of Greater Park Hill Community & Chair of the Board during pre-development planning of Stapleton Neighborhood
It is with continued distress that the name of Stapleton is still being used to describe the vital community in Northeast Denver that sits on the site of the former International Airport.
I feel like the members of the community, specifically the Park Hill Community, were duped into believing that the name would be changed. In a March 2001 article written by Karen Saliman (then a member of the Stapleton Redevelopment Corporation Board of Directors) for the Greater Park Hill News, states, “Because Stapleton was an International Airport and a destination to many over the past 70 years, people may continue to refer to the property simply as a means of identifying its geographic location in the Denver metropolitan area, but Stapleton will no longer be the official name of the property.”
Having been a member of the Executive Committee of Greater Park Hill Community (GPHC) for over 10 years and Chair of the Board for two years, during the time that the plans were being presented to the surrounding communities, I sat through many board meetings where Stapleton and Forest City officials, most specifically Tom Gleason, promised that the name would not be retained.
I hope this letter serves as some historical backdrop to your quest to get the community’s name changed.
As reported in the September 2001 Greater Park Hill News, then Editor, Arthur Rosenblum quoted Ju Ju Nkrumah, a former protestor, as saying the continued use of the name is like “having the KKK flag waved in our face.”
Rosalyn Y. Wheeler-Bell
October 27, 2017
Stapleton Resident since 2006
The community has a unique opportunity to select a name that aligns more closely with our values. Symbols matter, particularly in these politically fraught times.
Co-Founder, Black Lives Matter 5280 Co-Lead, #ChangeTheNameSt*pleton Campaign
When BLM5280 started the 2015 campaign to #ChangeTheNameStapleton, it was out of a desire for community healing. We aren’t always given the opportunity to right wrongs- to be better. But renaming St*pleton is a chance for our neighbors to show that they have heard the communities calling out for an end to hatred in its many forms. With this vote, our St*pleton neighbors can say, once and for all, that the horrific legacy of the KKK has no place here.
Stapleton Resident & Business Owner
My wife and I support the name change, not because we think it will magically eradicate the evils of the world, but because keeping the name means that our neighbors, who we took the time to listen to at community meetings, would be devalued and dismissed. The tears that fell and those that were choked back would need to mean something other than the pain they communicated. If I see someone expressing pain that I do not feel, I’m triggered by compassion. In this case, I sat on the board of directors of SUN and listened to the communities arguments, I attended the Listening session facilitated by Dr. Nita Mosby Tyler, I helped to facilitate and attended the Days of Reflection the past two years, I met with members of RNSFA, I recently sat down for dialogue with neighbors with apposing views about the name change. We shared our hearts with one another. I questioned Mayor Hancock about his position on it (he assured me that he was for it, but said he would like to see the people in the neighborhood initiate action to finally make a change). I read the recent article in The Front Porch on the name change and the opposing views there. I now cochair the Committee of Diversity and Inclusion under the SUN board.
Because of these experiences and understanding… as a black man, what it is to be dismissed, ignored, and even despised because I simply am, I have to stand, not with those who mock the pain, and dismiss the pleas of our neighbors, but I stand with my brothers and sisters who demonstrate love and caring. Can the richest zip code in Denver afford to use its abundant resources to demonstrate that they care about the people they live among? The Narrative is that it will cost us too much. The truth is that we have paid millions of dollars into the MCA. There is a multi-million dollar surplus there. We can afford to embrace a positive change. Stapleton can live on in the history books and museums. We can come together with some positive energy, activities and contests around attributing a name that inspires a since of pride in where we call home.
Pastor of Park Hill Congregational United Church of Christ
Stapleton is an example of institutionalized racism. A memorial to white supremacy – an airport not named after his death for all his laudable accomplishments but in 1944, while he was still in the middle of his second stint as mayor. By people who knew the whole story. And now his name is so interwoven into the structure of society that few people notice it, or when pointed out, justifications for it are given more weight than the disruption it would entail to eliminate it – to eliminate a painful reminder to People of Color, Jews, Catholics, Chinese and all others whom the KKK openly terrorized, who I am certain were not consulted about using his name for the airport. As simplistic as it may seem, this hurts my neighbor. If my neighbor says this hurts them, then I can do no other than side with the commandment “Love does no wrong to a neighbor.”
Pastor and Candidate for DPS Board, District 5
So many of the systems that oppress and marginalize, the racism and bias in our lives, they will take hard work, dedication, and time. This is one of the easy places to start- changing a name- why not take the easy steps that are right in front of us?
So many people look at our world and say, “I don’t know where to start…”
Here. This. This is where we start.
Stapleton parent of 3 and resident for 12 years
A name is a term used for identification. Continuing to call our neighborhood “Stapleton” will continue to signify the affiliation with the former mayor, Ben Stapleton, and the ties that he had with the KKK. I am a caucasian women, married to a black man and we have beautiful mixed race children. I am able walk down the street without thinking twice. My family doesn’t share that same privilege. I can’t imagine having to experience life differently just because of the color of my skin. The Stapleton name identifies with hurtful behaviors from the past that we should not carry into the future if we have the power to change it. Whatever your circumstance, whatever your story, it just seems obvious that it’s the right thing to do.
Educator, Stapleton Resident since 2008
You had me at KKK.
The KKK was and is a terrorist hate group. Whether or not Ben Stapleton remained a member for the sake of politics is irrelevant. He did the thing. His membership automatically disqualifies him from earning a place of honor, then and now. No excuses, no exceptions. This is just one of many reasons I support a name change and will vote YES on ballot question #1. Stapleton’s KKK membership alone is enough.
Forest City faced opposition to the name Stapleton from bordering community members, from the very beginning of this new neighborhood development. Forest City plowed ahead with the name anyway, knowing Stapleton’s KKK history. Because of Forest City’s continued disregard for the voices of those closest to the new development, Forest City should be held financially responsible for all neighborhood renaming and be accountable for all the rebranding of small businesses in the community for those that choose to drop the name Stapleton from their business names. For this, I will vote NO on ballot question #2. The residents of the community should not have to foot the bill for Forest City’s indifference.
As far as ballot question #3, I’m voting NO. The changes being proposed now are going to happen anyway in 2021. Whether this change happens now or later, it is undemocratic and dilutes the voting power of residents. Any new vote will require turnout from 51% of residences AND 51% of commercial votes AND 51% of apartment votes. Historically less than 10% of eligible voters participate in these MCA votes.
Ultimately, I believe renaming our community can rebuild the foundation for an even more welcoming, inclusive future. I’ve read more than a few comments in the various community Facebook pages claiming that changing the name will not make those who are affected by the name feel any better or secure in their own neighborhood. They are wrong. A name change can do a lot more for the mental health of your neighbors than you can even imagine. As someone who has been living with a knot in my chest over this issue, I can tell you it affects one’s mental health. My vote in favor of a name change is like putting a premium on and valuing the quality of life for my neighbors and myself.
Lawyer, Chairman of SDC Board of Directors, Former member of CAB, longtime supporter of SUN, Stapleton resident since 2002
I am voting for a name change, having listened to the compelling stories and messages making the case that our community needs to strengthen itself as a place and a symbol of inclusiveness, tolerance and friendship.
Count me as one of the long-time Denverites who always just took for granted that we/our neighborhood was simply named after the former Denver airport on which our homes were built—while I still believe that was the reason for the original naming of our NE Denver community, the “Stapleton” moniker is now associated with a long deceased Mayor who chose to be a member of and identified with the KKK.
Thank you to those of you patient enough to bring others of us along in our thinking, and I’m proud to support the vote to change our name.
In the Reverend Mike Morran’s wise and wonderful words, “Morally, the issue of changing the name Stapleton could hardly be simpler or more straightforward. We, Stapleton homeowners, businesses, and voters, are being told that the existing name hurts people, both within and beyond the neighborhood… When someone is being hurt, the moral thing to do is remove the cause of that hurt – if it is within our power to do so. This is extraordinarily low hanging fruit.”
Some are saying that more than renaming needs to be done to improve race relations in our neighborhood, and I completely agree. But two or three or four rights don’t make a wrong here, they just make more right. And the time for doing this ‘right’ is now.
Stapleton Resident since 2008
Throughout its infamous history, the Ku Klux Klan has engaged in acts of domestic terrorism. As a KKK member, Benjamin Stapleton has never been worthy of being honored in any manner. Who he was, his values and his legacy will forever be linked to a hate group with its history tied to violence and murder, and soaked in the blood of thousands of victims. My family and I have called this neighborhood home for the past 11 years. The reality is Benjamin Stapleton would not have welcomed us nor many of our neighbors to ‘his’ neighborhood. If this is truly the diverse and inclusive neighborhood many claim it to be, then use of this name in places of honor should come to an end now.
Stapleton Resident since 2012, Founding Co-President of Rename St*pleton For All and RSFA Board Member
The first time I heard that Stapleton was named after a KKK mayor, about a decade ago, I quickly dismissed it. In 2015, when Black Lives Matter 5280 blanketed the neighborhood with banners and fliers, I felt we should change the name; but when officials said it was too difficult or that it wasn’t even really the name, I thought maybe we should put up a plaque about our inclusive values instead. I still didn’t get it. When a member of BLM5280 attended a neighborhood meeting and spoke about how harmful the name is, I was moved. I suggested to him that members of BLM5280 come to our homes and try to compel us to act. Still didn’t get it.
In a society that is so protective of white feelings, we don’t always get it. I ask that you not be dismissive, that you not try to say the community is inclusive and welcoming without doing the real work, that you take responsibility and act instead of passing the buck. I hope you get it faster than I did. Ballots are due July 31, 2019.
Stapleton Resident since 2015
Participating in the Stapleton name change debate has been one of the most illuminating experiences of my life. When I first learned about the legacy behind the name Stapleton, I was shocked that the neighborhood that I had come to love so much could be associated with the KKK. I attended a SUN meeting in September 2015 to learn more, and was moved by the words of Jewish resident Bob Segal, who recalled the KKK marching down Colfax Avenue every Friday on Shabbat. I tried to imagine what it must have felt like to witness the cross burnings, bombings, mobs, and harassment with no one to turn to because Mayor Ben Stapleton appointed a klansman as the chief of police.
Learning that Denver residents had voiced their opposition to the use of the name Stapleton long before the development had ever begun construction was another gut punch. They were assured that the use of the name Stapleton was temporary, but there appears to be no intention on the part of the developer to keep that promise.
What has genuinely shaken me even more is the dismissive and derisive way in which my neighbors have engaged in the debate about the name change. I have witnessed supporters of the name change being called stupid, idiots, out of touch with reality, and told to move somewhere else if we don’t like the name Stapleton. We’ve been characterized as shady outsiders, asked what country we come from, and told to please just go away. In an impressive display of mental gymnastics, these same neighbors claim that Stapleton the community is welcoming and inclusive, and have denied that any racism or white privilege exists in our neighborhood. While children have been called the N-word in our schools. While Isabella Bird Community School was vandalized with swastikas. While Spanish-speaking nannies were frequently commanded to speak English at the Cottonwood Gallery playground or leave. While a resident followed home a Korean-American family and told them to leave, that they don’t belong here, and later hurled racial slurs at construction workers. While another resident told a young black man to remove his hoodie because it made her uncomfortable. Our neighbors are being racially profiled, subjected to micro-aggressions, and outright aggression. These are actual experiences that are happening to our neighbors.
“Get over it,” they say. How can anyone get over something that is still happening? For me, the name “Stapleton” will forever call to mind the harassment that my husband endured at the hands of Klansmen in his childhood in Louisiana, and the terror that the KKK inflicted in Denver in the 1920s and throughout our country over the last century. But because of this debate, the name “Stapleton” will also remind me of my present-day neighbors who defend the honor of a Klansman while remaining oblivious to or denying the difficult realities that are lived by many of their neighbors. Who, intentionally or not, belittle and marginalize those of us who are hurt by the continued use of the name Stapleton in a place of honor in our community. Who feel that our opposition and pain simply do not matter.
To my friends and neighbors who have made an effort to learn about experiences other than their own with an open heart and mind, I thank you. Our conversations about diversity and what real inclusion looks like have helped us understand each other more deeply and intimately. This has been the silver lining of the debate thus far. So many of you have even spoken up for us in solidarity – words cannot express how much that means to me. You are the reason I fell in love with this neighborhood and why I am still here. Our children will benefit from the work we are doing together. Please, show up for us and submit your vote to change the name of this neighborhood. We have more work to do beyond the name change. But today, we can right this wrong together.
Resident since 2005, father of two, husband, concerned citizen
My wife and I moved to Stapleton in 2005 into filing 2, when it was still an incipient dream. There were not that many houses built yet, and a LOT of construction going on all over the place. We looked at places out in the ‘burbs, but my wife is a city girl so she wanted to be closer to downtown.
Of the many things that attracted us to Stapleton in addition to proximity to downtown was the promise of the community as represented by the Green Book. The ideals in that road map for our neighborhood represented values I wanted to express in my community – mixed use to improve on commuting efficiency for work, shopping, leisure. There would be lots of open space and parks. And finally, it was planned to be a diverse community, economically as well as racially, not like some of the suburban communities, many with histories of red-lining and other discriminatory practices.
Stapleton was going to be different.
Then I became aware of the history associated with the name Stapleton. I attended a lecture at the Sam Gary library a few years ago where a professor of history explained who exactly Ben Stapleton was. He wasn’t just a mayor of Denver from a distant past that no one living can remember. He was also a long time member of the KKK, and he helped fill many city administrative leadership roles with KKK members as well.
I learned this during the time when Black Lives Matter was a nascent political force in this country, gathering to oppose police racial profiling, brutality and even murder of too many unarmed, innocent black Americans. When BLM took a stand against the name Stapleton because of its history of association with the KKK, I took notice.
And recently, I’ve noticed people revising the history of the KKK and Ben Stapleton’s role in it to make it seem like it wasn’t that bad, certainly nothing to get upset about now, all these many years later. That is plainly and simply false. The KKK was a violent white supremacist organization then, worse even than today. It violently oppressed blacks but also Jews, Catholics, Chinese, Hispanics, pretty much everyone who wasn’t a white anglo-saxon protestant. It used violence, threats and intimidation to achieve its white supremacist goals.
And today, we have a choice, and a chance, to rename our community, to remove the taint of racism, violence and repression associated with Ben Stapleton’s name, with our community’s name. We can choose to rise up to our ideals and show that our community is not going to be defined by a past we can’t control, but by a future which we can.
There are three votes being collected:
1. To remove the name Stapleton from our community. That’s a strong yes vote!
2. Whether the MCA can apply a $43 fee against all homeowners to pay for signage changes and legal filings. Because the MCA has no evidence to support their claims for these charges, that is a strong no vote.
3. Changing the way the MCA conducts future votes like this to make it more difficult for the community to have a say in issues of concern to the community. That is also a strong no vote.
Please join me in voting to remove the name Stapleton from our community.
Stapleton resident since 2011
In 1995, Denver’s biggest Fix and Flip began. The city had a now-defunct 4,700 acre airport site.
Nearly 25 years later, the neighborhood of Stapleton is a thriving model of urban redevelopment that is largely completed, but an ugly scar keeps coming to the surface.
Over the years, there have been conversations, protests and initiatives surrounding the name of the Stapleton Neighborhood due to the KKK affiliation and actions of the former airport’s namesake, a man who served a total of 20 years as Denver’s mayor, starting in the 1920’s. With some exceptions, such as the recent student-led name change of DSST Stapleton to DSST Montview, not much has come from these discussions. This time, however, there is a very real opportunity to make a change that will benefit residents, our children and countless others.
As with previous times when this conversation has come to the fore, resulting commentary on Stapleton’s social media groups has been swift, with reactions ranging from intrigued to dismissive. Many are angry and defensive at the suggestions the name should be changed. Still others debate about whether Stapleton is the ‘inclusive and progressive’ neighborhood concept it has touted itself to be. Some commenters write passionate pleas to take this discussion seriously, and they lament the tone of many of the posts as lacking civility, empathy and understanding.
I, for one, believe this is an opportunity we as a community should make the most of. This is an opportunity to look honestly at who we are and what we can and should be doing to make a positive impact. I am hoping we figure out how to do as a community is to move forward in a positive and productive direction not only with the decision, but also the process before and after the vote is done.
It’s worth putting some perspective around where my thoughts are coming from. I “look” a lot like much of Stapleton. I am a 40-something year old straight, married, white guy with 3 kids and a couple SUVs. While I’m a first generation college student who came from a family that didn’t have much, I am still the picture of privilege in many ways. I’m not ashamed of who I am, but I believe acknowledging where our perspectives come from is a part of the conversation.
Given where I am coming from, I know I can’t begin to pretend to understand the visceral emotion that has been sparked by this issue, particularly for historically (and currently) oppressed groups who see the name Stapleton as a slap in the face, representing not just the dark shadows of America’s past, but of a very flawed present that is marred by daily incidents stemming from ignorance and inequality. I am not personally “hurt” or “offended” by the name, but I know others who are. Others who have a very different lens and set of experiences than I do. Others who I care about enough to think this through more carefully. I also think of my 3 daughters, one of whom was involved in the discussions around the DSST name change, and came through it with a deeper understanding of and appreciation for other perspectives. I want to do the right thing for them.
In many ways, Stapleton is a snapshot of our nation’s reality. We have a lot of good going on in this neighborhood. We have some amazing people. We have an intentionally developed community that was envisioned cater to a wide spectrum of residents, ultimately leading to a rich, vibrant and sustainable community.
We also have some significant division. Based on the latest census data, this neighborhood (the bubble as some have described it) is strikingly homogenous when it comes to race and socio-economic status (SES). Stapleton is predominately white and has a median income that is double the City of Denver’s average. It is surrounded by neighborhoods that are much more racially diverse and range widely in SES. This largely due to the fact this is a newer development in the middle of a city, and the diversity of the neighborhood is slowly improving. The demographics of Stapleton are not something that should be seen as bad, per se, but should be acknowledged as a part of this discussion.
This is the reality. So what do we do now? Where do we go from here?
I don’t have the answers, but I believe this is an opportunity to get into the bigger issues and create something better…. To continue the Fix and Flip
This is bigger than the name Stapleton. Much bigger.
This is about making the future better than the past.
This is about acknowledging wrongs.
This is about the future.
This is about history.
This is about continuing to make Denver’s Biggest Fix and Flip a success story.
Should the name be changed? I believe it should. I believe a bold move like this would make a statement that reflects the progressive approach most residents value and have a ripple effect in our community, bringing hope and taking steps to move us all in a more positive direction.
Equally important to the outcome of this vote is the conversations and actions that have the potential to move us forward.
We must be honest. We must have respect. We must be open.
This resident of “the bubble” hopes we can find ways, big and small to engage in open discussion… and we can take a step in the right direction by voting for this change.
Let’s keep doing this fix and flip thing. I advocate for a name change, but regardless of your feelings on a name change, don’t dismiss the bigger opportunities for growth here.
Educator, Candidate for Denver School Board At-Large
I support this community led effort to rename St*pleton, because we are a city that moves forward and embraces our diversity. We are a city that doesn’t tolerate hate, so we must be a city that leads and sends a message that we don’t celebrate leaders who worked to oppress people of color.
Senior Minister at First Unitarian Society of Denver, Stapleton resident since 2002
Morally, the issue of changing the name Stapleton could hardly be simpler or more straightforward. We, Stapleton homeowners, businesses, and voters, are being told that the existing name hurts people, both within and beyond the neighborhood. We are being told that the name is a visible and pervasive reminder of a hateful and exclusionary history. We are being told that keeping that name for our beloved neighborhood continues to pay homage to that hate and exclusion. We are being asked to relieve some of that pain.
When someone says they are being hurt, they are not asking for a debate. When someone is being hurt, they are not asking to have their pain dismissed or explained away. When someone is being hurt, the moral thing to do is remove the cause of that hurt – if it is within our power to do so. This is extraordinarily low hanging fruit. No whitesplaining. No excuses. Change the name.
NAACP State President
The NAACP State Conference supports a new name, and a new reality, for the community of “Stapleton.” There is a movement nationwide to unname public markers that harken back to a xenophobic and oppressive history. Now is the time for Denver to be part of that movement. Renaming “Stapleton” would refresh public memory and support efforts to move forward a reality where all people have equitable access to opportunity. This is not about dismissing the cries of preservationists, but rather about dismissing the specter of White supremacy. A new name would be consistent with the NAACP’s purpose. And, it would be a game changer for social justice. In tandem with changing a name, we must also work to change the policies that keep people trapped in a KKK reality.
Stapleton Resident since 2014; Web Designer & Editor
If the community itself takes action and says, ‘This isn’t who we are. We welcome you,’ that makes a strong statement of inclusivity.
Any true change requires patience, persistence, passion, and positivity. It won’t happen overnight. It won’t. But if we start today, it will happen sooner than if we start tomorrow…
Grew up in Park Hill, Stapleton resident since 2018
My great grandfather was a member of the Klan. I am ashamed but I can’t change that. What I can do is acknowledge racism is a terrible, relic of the past and do my part by voting to change the name of our community.
Changing the name is consistent with our community’s values.
I am writing to urge my neighbors to vote in favor of changing the name of the Stapleton neighborhood. In the time I have lived in the Stapleton community, I have been so grateful for the kindness that emanates daily from people who live here. We are a community that values equality, tolerance and inclusivity. Before moving to the neighborhood, the name conjured up memories from when I had flown out of the airport as a child. However, after moving here as an adult, I learned more about the history of the airport’s namesake, Benjamin Stapleton. As I learned about his involvement with the Ku Klux Klan, I came to understand how hurtful the neighborhood name is, especially for people of color.
Now that we know better, let’s do better! Voting to rename the neighborhood is an important chance for us to demonstrate our value of inclusivity and show compassion to those who are harmed by the name. In the June issue of the Front Porch, an argument opposing the effort to rename stated, “An airport or even a mayor do not define what this community is today; we do.” I wholeheartedly agree that we define our community. With that power, let us vote to let go of a name that is painful to so many and look forward to finding a name that ALL residents can celebrate.
Stapleton resident since 2011, RSFA Board Member, Associate Professor, Univ. Colorado School of Medicine
When it was time to choose a name for this community, Denver citizens loudly said, “Not that!”. The developers told them the name would be a temporary placeholder. Now, decades later, it is past time to listen to those voices, and many new ones, who say that we can do so much better.
Stapleton Resident since 2009, Co-Founder of Stanley Marketplace, Social Worker
We should not let inconveniences distract us from doing the right thing at this moment in time. Our children and future generations of community members will benefit from our thoughtful and responsible decision to make a change. The time is now to better align ourselves with our community’s values.
Stapleton resident since 2015
I voted to change the name of our neighborhood and I hope my neighbors will, too.
The neighborhood of Stapleton was so named because the airport used to be there and the airport was called Stapleton airport because Stapleton was the mayor when it was built. He was not being honored for some service to the community posthumously. He was just in charge when it was named and then the name was passed on without people fully considering its impact (or caring enough about its impact on some of our fellow Coloradans).
If we were starting from scratch and building a new neighborhood today, I doubt you could get a lot of support for naming something after a dead klansman. So why are we keeping the name now? We don’t have to continue honoring a dead klansman. We have the ability to name our community something else. And we should.
Names of places and spaces matter. It’s a show of what we choose to recognize and therefore place value on in our society. Maybe Stapleton’s KKK past didn’t bother people when he was mayor and when the old airport was built. Unfortunately it didn’t matter to enough people when the community was being built a decade+ ago.
I am hopeful that we have reached a critical mass of people now, finally, that will support living and raising their families in a place with a name everyone can be proud of and in which everyone can feel represented.
Resident since 2003, teacher in the community since 2014
I’m voting yes to rename St*pleton!
I want the name of our community to make ALL people feel safe and welcomed here.
My husband Brad and I have lived here since 2003 and love this community so much. We’re both blessed to serve this community as teachers and are in awe of our former student Cora Galpern who has been very involved with the name change movement.
Our students give us so much hope for the future, we’re hopeful that the community will make this important step toward creating the inclusive community we know St*pleton could be!!
Anthropologist and medical school professor. Stapleton Resident since 2014.
Growing up in Colorado, I was taught little about the KKK’s role in our state’s history. When I finally learned about Benjamin Stapleton’s troublesome legacy, it saddened and angered me, but I doubted a name change was worth the effort. At a 2015 SUN meeting and subsequent listening sessions, I listened to dozens of black, latinx, Asian, Native American, and Jewish community members ask explicitly for that change. They expressed sincere hurt over what they see as a symbol of exclusion. I knew then we had to come together as a neighborhood to select a more inclusive name. The change won’t erase history or magically heal present strife. We’ll have more work to do. But as a part of the long, difficult process toward understanding and equity it’s important that those voices of be heeded.
Residents of The Lofts at St*pleton since 2005; retired labor organizer (AC) and lay LGBTQ+ historian (DH)
When we moved into our brand-new building, we volunteered to decorate the lobby. Taking a historical approach, Andrea researched the neighborhood only to be alarmed: Benjamin Stapleton was a member of the Ku Klux Klan when he first became mayor. Obviously, our neighbors weren’t keen on adorning the lobby with even a single archival photo of citizens in their Sunday best attending cross burnings by hooded Klansmen. Ten years later Andrea was roused by Black Lives Matter’s focus on changing the name and David browsed the KKK collection at the Central Library only to find that Ben Stapleton obtained KKK support AFTER his famous 1923 campaign quote: “True Americanism needs no mask or disguise.” Less remembered is his public speech during his recall of 1924: “I have little to say, except that I will work with the Klan and for the Klan in the coming election, heart and soul. And if I am re-elected, I shall give the Klan the kind of administration it wants.” Craving clarity, David turned to Prof. Robert Goldberg in March 2016, asking whether Stapleton had repented later on. He told me, “I do not recall any time that he ever voiced contrition publicly.” Changing the name will not erase this history; it is indelible.
Executive Director, ACLU Colorado and Stapleton resident since 2004
In a state that voted for Amendment A to abolish slavery and involuntary servitude in all circumstances, we should also remove the symbols of oppression and racial bias that still haunt and harm our state. Given the legacy of the Stapleton name, changing the name to something more inclusive would serve our community and the state of Colorado well.
Raised in Denver, proud grandmother in the community, speech and language pathologist for kids k-12
As a lifelong Denver resident, a name change is way past due. One of my first jobs was working at the FAA at the former airport. I loved watching the planes come in. However, demands for a name change have been happening for decades. The name is connected to the KKK. I began marching for equality during the 1960’s and I still march today. People like me who have roots in Denver want a change. A fight for equality affects us all. As a child I have memories of my mother (Caucasian) panic stricken when she heard reports of a lit KKK cross. I have seen KKK marches in Denver in my lifetime. Why remind those of us with deep Denver memories of the KKK take-over of city government every time we watch the weather and traffic reports (e.g., “traffic is backed-up in Stapleton”, “strong winds in Stapleton”)? The name hurts, it shouldn’t be a part of daily life. As a Denverite I am embarrassed by the name. Retaining the name places a burdon on people of color and white generational Coloradans like me. I have heard people who do not live in Stapleton, like me, called outsiders. Let me clear, I am not a Denver Outsider. Stapleton is a new development in Denver, with a Denver address. It is a new community in an old city and must listen to the memories of that city. The community currently called Stapleton is a great place. I am helping to raise my granddaughter there. The name doesn’t reflect the actions or behaviors of the people I have met in the community, nor the beautiful parks and schools where my granddaughter and I spend our time. The current name was chosen for the community by a developer with interest in saving time and money. That developer knew the hurt cause by the name but ignored it. The name doesn’t reflect the community and it has a hurtful dark past. Picking a new name will give the community ownership over the future of the neighborhood. It is a beautiful way to come together and build the world we want our kids and grandkids live in.
Author of “Hooded Empire: The Ku Klux Klan in Colorado”, University of Utah – Professor of History and Director Tanner Humanities Center
According to my research:
1. Stapleton never “publicly split” from the Klan.
2. He did not fire all of the Klan members in his administration – only those loyal to John Galen Locke.
3. I never found a public apology or statement of regret from Ben Stapleton regarding his membership in the Klan nor his willingness to allow Klan members in his administration to administer Hooded justice or policy.
4. I found no amends, significant or otherwise.
*Note: In a review of Hooded Empire, Robert W. Larson, Department of History University of Northern Colorado writes: “This book is the product of careful research and penetrating and thoughtful analysis…. The documen-tation is also impressive. Goldberg used mem-bership rolls, newspapers, public documents, manuscript collections, and oral interviews to glean as much information about the Invisible Empire as possible. Hooded Empire is a valuable contribution to modern western history.”
Educator and Stapleton resident since 2017
How could I not? The community is named after a man who chose to publicly formalize his racism, his anti-Semitism, his anti-Catholicism, and his homophobia through the Ku Klux Klan. His KKK affiliation is at odds with our welcoming community.”
Stapleton resident since 2014, born and raised in the Denver area, Anthropologist
The level of research and discussions that took place at DSST Montview Middle School over the name Stapleton was astonishing and brave for people of any age. I am a community member and mother. I am for a name change. I have attended most of the community listening sessions surrounding the name. I have taken-in the stories told by people from diverse cultural and religious backgrounds about their memories, their hurt, and their trauma. Their stories were honest, strong, and vulnerable. I have heard most say that honoring a Klansman by naming a Denver neighborhood after him hurts. A neighborhood name has “pride of place”. Giving that to a Klansman sends a message. I have heard the request for a name change. If that is a change people want, who am I to tell them it’s the wrong kind of change? Who am I to not support their request? The name is not necessary. Intolerance is a threat to safety, and a threat to the public good. I have and will vote yes for a change. Of all the problems occurring in the world, this should be easy. Names change all the time. As a mom, I want to know that I am raising my daughter in a community that hears, believes, and respects the stories of others.
A very small number of people ever have places named after them. The people who get that honor have “pride of place” in our society for posterity. Should Ben Stapleton’s actions give him “pride of place” in our community? How are we supposed to hold current leaders accountable if we as a city/community have decided that someone who actively worked with the Klan—and who never made amends for it, despite some people’s claims—is the right guy to name our community after?
Stapleton Resident since 2014
I want to live in a community that is aligned with my values of social justice.
I support a name change because Ben Stapleton stood for racial exclusion and MY community doesn’t.
Stapleton Resident since 2016, Social Worker
I want to live in a community that understands and responds to the ongoing legacy of white supremacy, and I want my children to know that social change is worth fighting for, even when it’s hard or inconvenient. I believe meaningful social change starts with our own families and communities, and I believe that changing the name of our community is an important place to start.