A blog post attributed to a history professor at George Washington University stated that she had assumed a Black identity for much of her career, despite being White.
The author, Jessica A. Krug, said she has deceived friends and colleagues by falsely claiming several identities, including “North African Blackness, then US rooted Blackness, then Caribbean rooted Bronx Blackness,” according to the blog post on Medium. Krug, whose areas of expertise include African American history, Africa and Latin America, is White and Jewish, she admitted.
“I am not a culture vulture. I am a culture leech,” the post said. “I have thought about ending these lies many times over many years, but my cowardice was always more powerful than my ethics.”
Krug did not return multiple requests for comment.
Crystal Nosal, a university spokesperson, said officials are aware of the Medium post and looking into the situation. She declined to comment further.
Krug has taught history courses at GWU since 2012, including classes about the African diaspora and African history, according to the university’s website. Aria Sakona, a 21-year-old senior, said she’s taking Krug’s class on Latin American history this semester.
“I was definitely very shocked. I was just completely perplexed since I just had a class with her on Monday,” Sakona said about Krug. “She definitely kind of indicated a tie to the Latinx community.”
Sakona, who is African American, said there are several Hispanic and first-generation students in the class, which is being taught remotely. She hopes the university will find another professor, preferably someone from the Latin American community, to teach the material.
“It just breaks my heart that these students came in, very bright-eyed and eager, to learn about Latin heritage and the history,” said Sakona, who is studying international affairs with a concentration in Latin American and international development. “We all placed a lot of trust in her.”
Krug, in the blog post, said she had been “audaciously deceptive.” She expressed remorse but did not apologize for her actions. She said she has been battling “unaddressed mental health demons” for her entire life and started to assume a false identity as a child.
“But mental health issues can never, will never, neither explain nor justify, neither condone nor excuse, that, in spite of knowing and regularly critiquing any and every non-Black person who appropriates from Black people, my false identity was crafted entirely from the fabric of Black lives,” she said.
People who reacted on social media to Krug’s announcement compared her to Rachel Dolezal, a White civil rights activist and Howard University graduate who claimed to be Black. Dolezal was president of the NAACP chapter in Spokane, Wash., in 2015 when her family exposed the truth about her identity.
Krug, like Dolezal, has focused much of her work on the Black community. She has written extensively on the subject of Blackness, and in an essay about the Puerto Rican uprising against its governor in 2019, Krug said she was a “boricua,” a term used for Puerto Ricans. She described herself as “an unrepentant and unreformed child of the hood” who has spent much of her time advocating for communities of color and opposing gentrification in New York.
Krug’s book, “Fugitive Modernities: Politics and Identity Outside the State in Kisama, Angola, and the Americas, c. 1594-Present,” earned her spots as a finalist for awards named after Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass. She became part of a network of Black scholars, many of whom took to Twitter to condemn Krug’s actions.
Hari Ziyad, a Black author, screenwriter and editor in chief of the online publication, RaceBaitr, posted a thread of tweets about Krug. Ziyad called Krug “a friend up until this morning.”
“For years I defended her work, and her from her own self-loathing,” Ziyad tweeted. “I always knew there was something off. It was in her persistent negativity and jealousy, her always needing to prove her authenticity at the expense of everything else.”
Krug said she grew up in suburban Kansas City, but has eschewed her experiences there.
Family members said Krug had disassociated herself from the family decades ago but that as a young person she was very smart, active in sports, studious, and very interested in causes, including racial equality – and that today’s revelation that she had been presenting herself as something other than a white, blond, Jewish woman from Kansas was astonishing.
Krug, in the Medium post, said she had been alienated from her birth family.
Yomaira Figueroa, an associate professor at Michigan State University did not know Krug, but knows many who did.
“People who were very close to her are devastated,” Figueroa said. “People who don’t know her are aghast that she would perpetuate these lies and gain access to these spaces in the academy, the resources,” such as grants and fellowships to advance herself and thus shutting out others from attaining them.
The University of Wisconsin at Madison, where Krug earned a Ph.D in 2012, announced in 2009 that she was one of the recipients of the Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad Fellowships who would be traveling to Angola and Brazil to study history. A spokeswoman for the Education Department was not immediately able to confirm that.
“She was definitely trying to portray herself as having had the worst kinds of experiences,” growing up, perpetuating stereotypes that people have about Puerto Rican or Black people, said Figueroa, who is a Black Latina, “and trying to take the kind of clout that would give her.”
Figueroa, who grew up working poor in Hoboken, N.J. said the deception from a white midwestern woman felt personal.
“It’s really disgusting,” she said.
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The Washington Post’s Alice Crites contributed to this report.