George Washington University

DC Professor Apologizes for Falsely Claiming Black Identity

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A George Washington University professor apologized in an essay Thursday for assuming “identities within a Blackness that I had no right to claim.” 

Jessica Krug, a historian with a specialty in Africa and imperialism, said she had identified as North African, Black and Caribbean “when I had absolutely no right to do so — when doing so is the very epitome of violence, of thievery and appropriation,” she wrote on the website Medium

In a message to the GW community, the university said Krug will not be teaching her classes this semester. GW is working on options for students registered for her classes.

"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," the message said in part.

The history department at GW released a statement asking for her resignation or termination.

"The members of the faculty of The George Washington University Department of History are shocked and appalled by Dr. Jessica Krug’s admission on September 3, 2020 that she has lied about her identity for her entire career," it read in part.

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Krug did not respond to inquiries when contacted Thursday.

Krug had rejected her “lived experience as a white Jewish child in suburban Kansas City,” she wrote. 

In the essay called "The Truth, and the Anti-Black Violence of My Lies," Krug described herself as a “culture leech” and said she struggled with mental health issues after severe trauma in early life. 

“People have fought together with me and have fought for me, and my continued appropriation of a Black Caribbean identity is not only, in the starkest terms, wrong — unethical, immoral, anti-Black, colonial — but it means that every step I’ve taken has gaslighted those whom I love,” she wrote. 

Krug is listed as an associate professor at GW and was a finalist this year for the Frederick Douglass Book Prize, awarded by a group of American historians.

“It’s so inappropriate to try and appropriate another culture that isn’t yours,” GW student Andrea Layon said.

A former student, who said she took world history with Krug in 2015, told News4 the professor often talked about how cultural appropriation is wrong.

“It was just really ironic because she was as white as the people she was claiming were appropriating the cultures of these people,” GW alum Marissa Soltoff said.

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, the Associated Press reported. 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 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.”

An article Krug wrote on Puerto Rico and “Black freedom" appears in the September/October issue of Essence magazine.

The article did not appear on the Essence website as of Thursday afternoon. The company did not immediately respond to an inquiry. 

Statement from the history department at GW:

The members of the faculty of The George Washington University Department of History are shocked and appalled by Dr. Jessica Krug’s admission on September 3, 2020 that she has lied about her identity for her entire career. With what she has termed her “audaciously deceptive” appropriation of an Afro-Caribbean identity, she has betrayed the trust of countless current and former students, fellow scholars of Africana Studies, colleagues in our department and throughout the historical discipline, as well as community activists in New York City and beyond. The discipline of history is concerned with truth telling about the past. With her conduct, Dr. Krug has raised questions about the veracity of her own research and teaching. Accordingly, the department calls upon Dr. Krug to resign from her position as associate professor of History at GW. Failing that, the department recommends the rescinding of her tenure and the termination of her appointment.

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