A seasoned activist and professor of African American history at George Washington University has been pretending to be Black for years, despite actually being a white woman from Kansas.
In a case eerily reminiscent to Rachel Dolezal, Jessica A Krug took financial support from cultural institutions such as the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture for a book she wrote about fugitive resistance to the transatlantic slave trade. But according to a Medium post allegedly written by Krug herself, her career was rooted in a “toxic soil of lies”.
“To an escalating degree over my adult life, I have eschewed my lived experience as a white Jewish child in suburban Kansas City 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,” she wrote.
In Krug’s book Fugitive Modernities, published before her confession, she writes in her acknowledgments: “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 went by the name Jessica La Bombalera in activist circles and could be seen speaking in a New York City public hearing on police brutality in June.
“I’m Jessa Bombalera. I’m here in El Barrio, East Harlem – you probably have heard about it because you sold my fucking neighborhood to developers and gentrifiers,” she begins as she introduces herself. A few moments later, she adds: “I wanna call out all these white New Yorkers who waited four hours with us to be able to speak and then did not yield their time for Black and Brown indigenous New Yorkers.”
Those who knew Krug as La Bombalera have taken to social media today to announce their upset. “I’m dazed and still processing my emotions, but mostly, I feel betrayed, foolishand, in many ways, gaslit,” said the author Robert Jones Jr on Twitter.
As far back as 2018, Jones had published his conversations with Krug in a thread he wrote for marginalized communities.
Krug alludes in her Medium post to a traumatic childhood and mental health issues, but says she does not believe they can be used to excuse her behavior.
“To say that I clearly have been battling some unaddressed mental health demons for my entire life, as both an adult and child, is obvious. Mental health issues likely explain why I assumed a false identity initially, as a youth, and why I continued and developed it for so long.
“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 wrote.
The Guardian has reached out to Krug and George Washington University’s Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, in Washington DC, for comment.
In 2015, the civil rights activist and former chapter president of the NAACP Rachel Dolezal was outed by her parents for impersonating a Black person when she was born white. Dolezal’s own history of childhood trauma was later revealed. Dolezal later referred to herself as “the world’s first trans-black case”.