Updated Sept. 10. 9:50 a.m.
The George Washington University announced on Sept. 9 that history professor Jessica Krug, a white, Jewish woman who last week admitted she passed as Black, “has resigned her position, effective immediately.”
The university said on Twitter: Her classes for this semester will be taught by other faculty members, and students in those courses will receive additional information this week.”
Updated Sept. 5, 7:30 p.m.
In an online post apparently written by George Washington University professor Jessica Krug, the author admitted to spending her adult life falsely claiming to be Black.
“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,” the post, which was published Thursday, stated.
Krug, who studies Africa and the African Diaspora, did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
But Hari Ziyad, a screenwriter and editor of the online publication RaiceBaitr, said on Twitter that he was friends with Krug and that she called him Thursday morning “admitting to everything” in the post.
“She didn’t do it out of benevolence,” Ziyad wrote of Krug’s admission. “She did it because she had been found out.”
The post, published on blogging platform Medium, says that Krug has alternately claimed “North African Blackness, then US rooted Blackness, then Caribbean rooted Bronx Blackness.”
The post cites mental health issues stemming from “severe trauma that marked my early childhood and teen years” as the impetus for assuming false identities, though it states these do not excuse Krug’s actions.
The Kansas City Jewish Chronicle ran an obituary in 2013 for Sherry Krug, who it said was survived by her daughter Jessica Krug of Washington, D.C. The obituary said that Sherry Krug, formerly of Overland Park, Kansas, was active at the Conservative Congregation Ohav Sholom in Albany, New York at the time of her death.
Writer and curator Chaedria LaBouvier sat on a panel with Krug in 2017. LaBouvier told Washington Jewish Week that after the event Krug shared that her father’s family were Puerto Rican Jews after LaBouvier said that her grandfather was a Cuban Jew.
“She said, ‘Oh I’m Jewish as well, partly, we’re kind of a mix of everything on my dad’s side but we are also Puerto Rican Jews, which is how I got the name Krug,” said LaBouvier, who is African-American and does not identify as Jewish.
In a 2019 article for Essence magazine, Krug wrote, “I am boricua, just so you know. Boricua, not Puerto Rican, to reflect the name by which the indigenous people knew the island before Columbus invaded. And just so you know—you, fellow boricua, you, fellow colonized people of all nations, from the South Bronx to San Juan, from Ponce to Palestine: Another world is possible.”
LaBouvier, who does not know Krug well, said she found it notable that the revelation of Krug’s Judaism had been part of the news related to her alleged deception.
“I was very surprised that people didn’t know she was Jewish or that was part of the reveal because that was the first thing she told me” LaBouvier said. “But apparently she didn’t use that part of her identity with other people.”
Many Jews of color spoke out on social media and criticized Krug after the story broke.
“This is why I’ll be forever unamused by white Jews who try to relate to me on some ‘we have the same hair!’ mess,” the Black Jewish artist Reuben Telushkin wrote on Twitter. “We are not the same, and it’s very important that you understand that.”
Identity present in Krug’s scholarship
Krug’s book “Fugitive Modernities: Kisama and the Politics of Freedom” was a finalist for the 2019 Harriet Tubman Prize from the Lapidus Center for the Historical Analysis of Transatlantic Slavery and Yale’s Frederick Douglass Book Prize.
In the introduction, Krug describes her book as a love letter to, “My ancestors, unknown, unnamed, who bled life into a future they had no reason to believe could or should exist.”
“It is a love letter for all of those who have been murdered fighting for freedom, and all of those who stay dying because we have not yet achieved it. It is a love letter for my siblings in solitary, from Rikers to San Quentin, for my cousins being held on gang charges, for my femmes turning tricks,” Krug writes.
George Washington University spokeswoman Crystal Nosal said the school was investigating the post, which it had not confirmed was written by Krug.
“We are aware of the Medium post and are looking into the situation,” Nosal said. “We cannot comment further on personnel matters.”
Update: On Sept. 4 the university issued the following statement:
Many of you understandably have many questions in the wake of the Medium post by GW faculty member Jessica Krug. While the university reviews this situation, 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.
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. Students who have been affected are encouraged to seek support from our Office of Diversity, Equity and Community Engagement (ODECE), Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), or Office of Advocacy and Support (OAS). Assistance for faculty and staff is available through our Wellbeing Hotline. Please know that we are taking this situation seriously and are here to support our community.
M. Brian Blake, Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs
Paul Wahlbeck, Dean, Columbian College of Arts and Sciences
Arno Rosenfeld is a writer in Washington.