George Washington University has cancelled the classes set to be taught by Jessica Krug, a professor who claimed to be black when in fact she was a white Jewish woman from suburban Kansas City.
In a statement released on Friday night, the University provost, Brian Blake, and dean, Paul Wahlbeck, wrote: “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.”
Krug triggered headlines around the globe last week after she posted a blog on Medium that claimed she was in fact white despite having 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 blamed “unaddressed mental health demons” dating back to childhood and said 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 blogpost to him in a phone call on 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 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”.
In Krug’s book Fugitive Modernities, published before the revelations, she paid tribute to her apparently invented past in the acknowledgment sections. She wrote: “My ancestors, unknown, unnamed, who bled life into a future they had no reason to believe could or should exist. My brother, the fastest, the smartest, the most charming of us all. Those whose names I cannot say for their own safety, whether in my barrio, in Angola, or in Brazil.”
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”.
In their letter on Friday night, addressed to the “GW Community”, Blake and Wahlbeck 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.”
Beyond the initial Medium post, Krug has not commented publicly on the furore.