Newspaper article International New York Times

N.A.A.C.P. Official Quits as Old Lawsuit Raises More Questions

Newspaper article International New York Times

N.A.A.C.P. Official Quits as Old Lawsuit Raises More Questions

Article excerpt

Years ago, Rachel Dolezal apparently accused Howard University of discriminating against her, in part for being white.


A few years before she began claiming to be black, Rachel A. Dolezal, who stands accused of deceiving people about her race, apparently sued a historically black university, charging that it had discriminated against her -- in part for being white.

On Monday, Ms. Dolezal gave up her post as president of the N.A.A.C.P. chapter in Spokane, Wash., amid a storm of national scrutiny and ridicule. She had said for years that her background was partly black, but last week her parents began telling reporters that she has no black ancestry.

In 2002, Ms. Dolezal received a Master of Fine Arts degree from Howard University, the historically black school in Washington, D.C. That same year, a woman named Rachel Moore, Ms. Dolezal's married name at the time, filed a lawsuit against Howard, first reported Monday by The Smoking Gun, saying that as a graduate student there she had faced discrimination based on her gender, her pregnancy and her race -- white.

A person familiar with the case, who was not authorized to speak for the record, said that Ms. Dolezal and Ms. Moore were one and the same.

The District of Columbia's Superior Court dismissed the lawsuit, a decision that was upheld in 2005 by the Court of Appeals. Howard declined to comment, aside from confirming that she earned her degree there.

By about 2008, Ms. Dolezal had moved West and was telling people that she was black or partly black.

Officials at the N.A.A.C.P. chapter in Spokane, and at the Human Rights Education Institute in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, where she had previously worked, said she had also represented herself to them as being partly of black descent.

It was a claim she also made in news media interviews and in an application to the City of Spokane for a seat on the Office of Police Ombudsman Commission, to which Mayor David A. Conton appointed her last year.

In a joint statement on Monday, the mayor and Ben Stuckart, president of the Spokane City Council, said, "We have referred the matter to the city's ethics commission for a determination as to whether the answers she gave on her application for the volunteer position violated the city's code of ethics."

Officials also confirmed on Monday that even before questions were raised about her race, the city had started an unrelated investigation into Ms. Dolezal. That inquiry, first reported by The Spokesman-Review newspaper, "relates to her behavior on the commission," said Brian Coddington, a city spokesman, but he declined to elaborate.

"That began on May 4, it's completely separate, and it's being done by an independent investigator," he said.

Attempts to reach Ms. …

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