US university investigating professor who apparently pretended to be black

Blog post under Jessica Krug’s name says she is a white woman from Kansas City

Jessica Krug – a history professor at George Washington University in the US capital focusing on Africa – said she had been pretending to be black “for the better part” of her adult life. Photograph: Getty Images

Jessica Krug – a history professor at George Washington University in the US capital focusing on Africa – said she had been pretending to be black “for the better part” of her adult life. Photograph: Getty Images

 

A university in the US is investigating the case of a history professor who apparently pretended to be a black woman for her entire career.

In a blog post that has gained international attention, a writer claiming to be Jessica Krug, a George Washington University 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”.

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 to the deception, “but my cowardice was always more powerful than my ethics”.

Her biography on the university website lists imperialism and colonialism and African-American history among her areas of expertise.

Her writings centre heavily on issues of African culture and diaspora.

The post caused an immediate furore on social media, with black academics, writers and activists recalling their interactions with Ms Krug.

Hari Ziyad, editor of the online publication RaceBaitr, which had published her writing, wrote on Twitter that Ms Krug had confirmed the details of the blog post to him in a phone call on Thursday.

He described her as “someone I called a friend up until this morning when she gave me a call admitting to everything written here”.

Mr Ziyad wrote that Ms Krug claimed to be Afro-Caribbean from the Bronx. He said he had defended her 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”.

Ms 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, Ms Krug refers to “my black and brown siblings” in the anti-gentrification movement and criticises “all these white New Yorkers” who “did not yield their time to black and brown indigenous New Yorkers”. – PA