Professor who allegedly pretended to be Black her entire career loses classes amid investigation

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WASHINGTON — A George Washington University history professor who allegedly admitted to fraudulently pretending to be a Black woman for her entire career won’t be teaching this semester while the school investigates, according to a statement Friday.

“We are working on developing a number of options for students in those classes, which will be communicated to affected students as soon as possible,” the school said. “We want to acknowledge the pain this situation has caused for many in our community and recognize that many students, faculty, staff and alumni are hurting.”

In a blog post that has gained international attention, a writer claiming to be Jessica Krug, a GW associate professor of history, writes that she is in fact a white Jewish woman from suburban Kansas City. The writer claims that she has lived most of her adult life “under various assumed identities within a Blackness that I had no right to claim: first North African Blackness, then US rooted Blackness, then Caribbean rooted Bronx Blackness.”

Krug did not respond to a request on her blog page for comment. The university declined to comment, but said in a tweet, “We are aware of the post by Jessica Krug and are looking into the situation. We cannot comment further on personnel matters.”

The blog post expresses deep remorse, calling the deception, “the very epitome of violence, of thievery and appropriation.”

The writer blames “unaddressed mental health demons” dating back to childhood and says she frequently thought of confessing the deception, “but my cowardice was always more powerful than my ethics.”

Krug’s biography on the GW website lists imperialism and colonialism and African-American history among her areas of expertise. Her writings center heavily on issues of African culture and diaspora.

The post caused an immediate furor on social media, with Black academics, writers and activists recalling their interactions with Krug.

Hari Ziyad, editor of the online publication RaceBatr, which had published Krug’s writings, wrote on Twitter that Krug had confirmed the details of the blog post to him in a phone call Thursday morning. He described Krug as “someone I called a friend up until this morning when she gave me a call admitting to everything written here.”

Ziyad wrote that the Krug claimed to be Afro-Caribbean from the Bronx. He said he had defended Krug in the past against suspicious colleagues. In retrospect, he recalls clues to the deception including her “clearly inexpert salsa dancing” and “awful New York accent.”

Krug’s public persona comes across in a video testimony to a New York City Council hearing on gentrification from June. Referring to herself as Jess La Bombalera, Krug refers to “my Black and brown siblings” in the anti-gentrification movement and criticizes “all these white New Yorkers” who “did not yield their time to Black and brown indigenous New Yorkers.”

See the full statement from George Washington University:

Dear GW Community,

Many of you understandably have many questions in the wake of the Medium post by GW faculty member Jessica Krug.  While the university reviews this situation, Dr. Krug will not be teaching her classes this semester.  We are working on developing a number of options for students in those classes, which will be communicated to affected students as soon as possible.

We want to acknowledge the pain this situation has caused for many in our community and recognize that many students, faculty, staff and alumni are hurting.  Students who have been affected are encouraged to seek support from our Office of Diversity, Equity and Community Engagement (ODECE), Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), or Office of Advocacy and Support (OAS).  Assistance for faculty and staff is available through our Wellbeing Hotline.  Please know that we are taking this situation seriously and are here to support our community.

Sincerely,

M. Brian Blake, Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs
Paul Wahlbeck, Dean, Columbian College of Arts and Sciences 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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