The Denver neighborhood named after the 20th century Denver mayor who was also a member of the Ku Klux Klan is moving to drop its affiliation with Benjamin F. Stapleton.
“The current conversation regarding racism and social injustice has increased awareness and education within our community,” the Master Community Association for the Stapleton neighborhood wrote on its website. “It has become more clear that continuing with the current name is hurtful to many residents.”
MCA delegates will meet on June 17 to recommend a new community name, and to request that the city and the developer Brookfield agree to the name change.
On Sunday, The Denver Post reported that the community association’s announcement followed a warning from at-large Denver Board of Education member Tay Anderson that protesters would march through the neighborhood demanding a name change.
“He was a member of the KKK .... END OF DISCUSSION!” Anderson tweeted about Stapleton, the mayor.
Stapleton, who served a total of five terms spanning the 1920s and 1930s, was a member of the Klan who also appointed Klansmen to several prominent positions within the city government. During a 1924 recall election, Stapleton courted the support of the terrorist organization, saying, “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.”
The Klan’s influence in Colorado politics waned shortly thereafter.
Councilman Christopher Herndon has asked Mayor Michael Hancock to “remove Stapleton as the neighborhood identifier from City systems moving forward,” he said in a statement. The neighborhood comprises 4,700 acres and 30,000 residents, with a population that is 81% white, 10% Latino, and 8% African American.
In a vote in 2019, Stapleton property owners rejected a name change for the northeast Denver neighborhood, 65% to 35%, with a turnout of 34%. Stapleton United Neighbors, the registered neighborhood organization, will hold a virtual meeting on June 16 to discuss potential names and the petitioning process for adopting a new community designation.
The MCA, per the community’s master documents, was created to own, operate and maintain common areas and neighborhood improvements.
Former Republican candidate for governor Walker Stapleton, a great-grandson of the former mayor, tweeted his qualified endorsement of the change on Sunday: "Disappointed only that dem process overlooked; votes cast multiple times by neighborhood residents. BUT.. IF..changing a name brings more equity, fairnesss and oppt’y for Denverites and specifically Coloradans of Color, I’m all IN."
Benjamin Stapleton left the organization and later worked against its mission, historians note. In 1925 the Klan voted to banish him as Stapleton declared his independence and fired Denver’s Klan-backed police chief.
In his tweet, Stapleton also added the hashtag: "#hewasademocrat"
Note: This story has been updated to provide more details behind the Stapleton property owners' vote.