“On July 14, 1924, Mayor Stapleton addressed a Klan gathering on South Table Mountain and reaffirmed his commitment: ‘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 reelected, I shall give the Klan the kind of administration it wants.'”

Quoted in Goldberg, R. (1981). Hooded Empire : The Ku Klux Klan in Colorado. Urbana, Illinois: University of Illinois Press.

Benjamin Stapleton was a card-carrying KKKlansman, #1,128.  He was the KKK’s candidate, elected for mayor of Denver in 1923.  He served as the Mayor of Denver for 20 years.  During his tenure, Stapleton made numerous Klan appointments including two Klansmen as Managers of Safety and a Klansman as Chief of Police.

“The signal the Klan government emanated to the rest of the world was this if you’re Catholic, Jew or black, you’re not welcome in Colorado.”

– Richard Delgado, University of Colorado law professor (Rocky Mountain News Nov. 23, 1999)

Listen to this podcast to learn more:

KDBBB: The Life and Times of Benjamin F. Stapleton

Images of the KKK in Colorado

Image Courtesy of the Denver Public Library (https://history.denverlibrary.org/sites/history/files/Klan_member_at.jpg)

Image Courtesy of The Denver Channel (http://media.thedenverchannel.com/photo/2017/08/16/kkk%20colorado%2020_1502917779146_64324622_ver1.0_640_480.png)

Image Courtesy of the Canon City Daily Record (http://extras.mnginteractive.com/live/media/site49/2014/0410/20140410__11DRKKKw~1.jpg)

Image Courtesy of The Denver Channel (http://media.thedenverchannel.com/photo/2017/08/16/kkk%20colorado%2012_1502917780429_64324623_ver1.0_640_480.png)

Image Courtesy of the Colorado Springs Independent (https://media1.fdncms.com/csindy/imager/vintage-postcard-image-klan-parade-salida-ca-1920s/u/zoom/1305166/f50c_cover-9648.gif)

Mayor Ben Stapleton signifies Colorado’s and Denver’s Ku Klux Klan era, because he was an opportunistic KKK member and political supporter whose 1923–1931 tenure was a reign of terror for immigrants, Jews, Catholics, and African Americans.

  • During that era there were 35,000 to 40,000 Klan members in the state. There were hundreds of hooded men marching in the streets, harassment and violence.
  • West of Denver regular KKK meetings occurred on South Table Mountain, with burning crosses visible, and south of Denver there were weekly rallies near “Kastle” Rock.
  • Klansmen harassed the Jewish enclave along West Colfax.
  • They burned crosses on front lawns of black activists, white supporters, blacks who moved to white areas, black professionals and blacks who were business partners with whites.
  • During this era (1925) Shorter AME Church was destroyed by fire, many believe caused by the KKK.
  • In 1920 when a black fireman bought a home on Gaylord St., his life was threatened by the Clayton Improvement Association of white homeowners.
  • Then a white mob threatened a black woman who moved to Gaylord Street.
  • In 1921 a black post office clerk’s rental on Gilpin St. was bombed twice.
  • In 1924 black students from Morey Jr. High were barred from swimming classes.
  • Students from Manual Training High School tried to attend a dance for white students. In response, The Denver school board ordered that school social functions be separated.
  • The Park Hill Improvement Association advocated for racially separated schools. In 1927 the Colorado Supreme Court ruled the board’s action unconstitutional.
  • In 1932 blacks tried to integrate Washington Park’s swimming beach, and were beaten up in front of white onlookers.
  • Sometime before 1948 when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down restrictive racial covenants, neighborhood associations, including the Capitol Hill Improvement Association, urged owners restricting sales of their homes to whites only.
  • In 1967 the court struck down the restrictions in the Clayton will that had prohibited non-white boys from admission to Clayton College for Boys.
  • In 1969, Keyes vs. School District #1 Denver, a lawsuit challenging de facto segregation in Denver public schools, was filed. The U. S. Supreme Court, in 1973, “compelled by a mountain of evidence,” ordered schools to desegregate. This required busing students due to Denver’s historical practices of “racial steering” in real estate sales and rentals and redlining certain neighborhoods, as well as private restrictive racial covenants.
  • In 1984, as part of their plan to kill prominent Jews, neo-Nazis machine- gunned to death Denver radio talk show host Alan Berg.
  • In January of 1992, a Klan rally sparked violence at the Denver Marade.
  • In 1995 the court ended supervision of Denver public school desegregation, and busing stopped. In 2017 Denver’s public schools may be even more segregated than they were before court-ordered desegregation.
  • In 1997-98 Skinheads killed a Denver police officer, and an African refugee and they paralyzed a white woman who tried to help the refugee.
  • In a one-year period ending 1998, eight African-American workers at Denver area companies discovered nooses planted in their work areas.

White supremacy has always been a part of U.S. history and the ideas have not gone away. They go underground, sensing when the time is right for them to survive in the light of day. This is one of those times.

Robert A. Goldberg, The Hooded Empire ( Univ. of Ill Press, 1982); “Home-Grown Racism: Colorado’s Historic Embrace—and Denial—of Equal Opportunity in Higher Education” by Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic. 70 U. Colo. L. Rev. 703. Copyright 1999;

How Does This Legacy Live On?

What else is going on in St*pleton:

  • Neighborhood is exclusive to higher income levels
  • Racially homogeneous/white
  • What was supposed to be a community with seamless boundaries feels like a gated community (full of parks, good schools, amenities)
  • Lack of affordable housing and prices out moderate incomes
  • Stapleton name is legacy of KKK in Denver
  • Failure of the Stapleton development to live up to its goals to reflect the racial and other diversity of the surrounding communities and to provide affordable and rental housing 10% and 30% of total housing stock, respectively.

See Forest City Stapleton 2015 Marketing Plan

What else is this related to in Denver?

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