The former NAACP leader accused of being a white woman pretending to be black once sued a historically black university for racial discrimination, claiming Howard University favored black students over her, according to court documents obtained by the Los Angeles Times.

Rachel Dolezal, who resigned her presidency of the NAACP chapter in Spokane, Washington, on Monday, was known as Rachel Moore when she sued Howard University in 2002 in Washington, D.C., where she was a graduate student in art.

Dolezal claimed university officials removed some of her art from a student exhibit in 2001 “for a discriminatory purpose to favor African-American students” over her, according to an appeals court’s summary of her arguments. Dolezal also claimed university officials took her scholarship away and denied her a teaching assistantship because she was pregnant.

A judge in Superior Court in the District of Columbia and an appeals court dismissed Dolezal’s claims.

Dolezal left her position as president of the Spokane NAACP Monday after her parents revealed last week that she did not have African ancestry.



Dolezal was expected to appear on NBC’s “Today” show on Tuesday morning.

In a statement posted Monday on the chapter’s Facebook page, Dolezal, whose parents say she is white, did not directly address allegations that she lied about being black.

“While challenging the construct of race is at the core of evolving human consciousness,” Dolezal wrote that she did not want to distract from the larger cause of racial justice and would step aside.

“I have waited in deference while others expressed their feelings, beliefs, confusions and even conclusions – absent the full story,” Dolezal wrote. “I am consistently committed to empowering marginalized voices and believe that many individuals have been heard in the last hours and days that would not otherwise have had a platform to weigh in on this important discussion.”

Dolezal said Naima Quarles-Burnley, vice president of the Spokane chapter, would take over.

The NAACP’s national president, Cornell William Brooks, told the Times the disgraced former chapter leader was widely liked and respected in Spokane, where there is “a great deal of disappointment and pain now.”


Brooks also insisted that “racial identity is not a qualifying or disqualifying characteristic for leadership or membership within the NAACP. It’s just not something that’s a criterion … it would be surprising to me that it even comes up.”

What is important is the 106-year-old civil rights organization’s “institutional integrity,” Brooks told the Times.

“People trust us in terms of doing civil rights investigations, doing the work of the organization,” Brooks said. “Having credibility in terms of truth-telling is critically important. We really try to emphasize the work, the importance of the work and having our institutional and issue integrity be up front and out front. That’s key.”

When pressed about the fact that Dolezal lied about her identity, Brooks said, “No. Lying is not consistent with our values.”


When the allegations about Dolezal’s race emerged late last week, her story triggered widespread curiosity, condemnation and sometimes intense discussion over the nature of race, privilege and identity.


Many Americans with mixed parents have “passed” as white, but Dolezal’s estranged parents say she has in recent years passed as black despite not having any black heritage.

“She may have felt that she had some advantage in her activism by being portrayed as a black woman,” her mother, Ruthanne Dolezal, said on NBC’s “Today” show Monday morning, adding that their daughter has not spoken to her parents in years.

“We hope that Rachel will get the help she needs to deal with her identity issues,” Ruthanne Dolezal said. “Of course we love her, and we hope that she will come to a place where she knows and believes and speaks the truth.”

Rachel Dolezal’s father said they had not spoken publicly about their daughter’s race before because they had never been asked.

“We had never been asked to be involved, we had never been questioned before, but just short of a week ago, we were contacted by the Coeur d’Alene Press,” Larry Dolezal said on the “Today” show.

“I guess it was part of some investigative reporting that was being done and somehow they got wind of us as her parents as a possibility, so they contacted us to see if we were, in fact, her parents,” Larry Dolezal said. “We taught our children, as we raised all six of them, tell the truth, always be honest. So we weren’t going to lie; we told the truth: Rachel is our birth daughter.”


Dolezal had been expected to address the firestorm that erupted last week over her racial identity at the local chapter’s Monday meeting.

But that meeting was canceled Sunday “due to the need to continue discussion with regional and national NAACP leaders,” according to the chapter’s Facebook page.

Last week, top NAACP officials had stood by Dolezal.

In a statement Friday, after her parents’ allegations were first reported in the Coeur d’Alene Press, the NAACP said Dolezal was involved in a “legal issue with her family.”

The group also stressed: “One’s racial identity is not a qualifying criteria or disqualifying standard for NAACP leadership.”

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