Today's Articles

People, Locations, Episodes

Sat, 11.12.1977

Rachel Dolezal, Professor, Author, and Cultural Appropriator born.

Rachel Dolezal

*Rachel Dolezal was born on this date in 1977. She is a former white-American college instructor, author, artist, and administrative activist known for presenting herself as a Black woman despite being born to white parents.

Rachel Anne Dolezal, now Nkechi Amare Diallo, was born in Lincoln County, Montana, to Ruthanne (Schertel) and Lawrence Dolezal, who are white; she was born as a blue-eyed blonde with straight hair. Ruthanne and Larry Dolezal were married in 1974. Dolezal's surname is of Czech origin; she has an older biological brother, Joshua Dolezal, a professor of English at Central College in Iowa who authored a book about their upbringing in Montana. When Dolezal was a teenager, her parents adopted three African American children and one Haitian child.

Dolezal was raised in the Pentecostal faith and homeschooled via the Christian Liberty Academy CLASS program. She was one of several co-valedictorians upon graduation in 1996. Following high school, Dolezal attended Belhaven University in Jackson, Mississippi, receiving her bachelor's degree in 2000. She then received a Master of Fine Arts, summa cum laude, from Howard University in 2002. Her thesis at Howard was a series of paintings presented from the perspective of a black man.

Dolezal later said that she was drugged and sexually assaulted by a "trusted mentor" when attending Howard University and that "suing was nearly impossible." Also, in 2002, Dolezal unsuccessfully sued Howard University for discrimination based on "race, pregnancy, family responsibilities, and gender, as well as retaliation." Her lawsuit alleged that she was denied scholarship funds, a teaching assistant position, and other opportunities because she was a white woman. She also alleged that the removal of her artwork from a student exhibition at Howard in 2001 "was motivated by a discriminatory purpose to favor African American students" over her.

In 2000, she married Kevin Moore, a Black man. Moore, a medical student at Howard University at the time of their marriage, divorced Dolezal in 2004. Dolezal and Moore have a son. As an artist, she created a fountain sculpture titled "Triumph of the Human Spirit" that consisted of a tall column with troubled, sad figures at its base and dancing, celebrating figures further up the column. The piece was installed in downtown Spokane in June 2005 and was later auctioned off to benefit the Human Rights Education Institute. In 2007, while working as an art teacher at School Indigo in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, Dolezal collaborated with children to make five works for a "Rights of the Child" exhibit by the Human Rights Education Institute. In 2010, with her parents' consent, Dolezal obtained legal guardianship of her 16-year-old brother, Izaiah Dolezal. 

Career

She was president of the NAACP chapter in Spokane, Washington, from 2014 until June 2015, when she resigned amid controversy over her racial identity. She was the subject of public scrutiny when her parents publicly stated that she was pretending to be Black but was white. The statement by Dolezal's parents followed Dolezal's reports to police and local news media that she had been the victim of race-related hate crimes; a police investigation did not find support for her allegations. Dolezal had also claimed on an application form to be mixed-race and had falsely claimed that a Black man was her father and that her brother was her son.

In the aftermath of the controversy, Dolezal was dismissed from her position as an instructor in Africana studies at Eastern Washington University and was removed from her post as chair of the Police Ombudsman Commission in Spokane over "a pattern of misconduct." In 2015, Dolezal acknowledged that she was "born white to white parents" but maintained that she self-identified as black. Dolezal gave birth to another son in February 2016. The Dolezal controversy fueled a national debate in the United States about racial identity.

Her critics stated that she committed cultural appropriation and fraud; Dolezal asserted that her self-identification is genuine. In 2017, Dolezal released a memoir on her racial identity entitled In Full Color: Finding My Place in a Black and White World.

New Poem Each Day

Poetry Corner

I placed a flower on your grave today. I knew you were not there— but far away A fleecy white cloud floated Blotting out a million miles of mystery and blue. Perhaps in... TO A PAL by A. V. Hall.
Read More