US & Canada

Race activist Rachel Dolezal: 'I identify as black'

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Media captionRachel Dolezal spoke to NBC of her "self-identification with the black experience"

US race activist Rachel Dolezal has said "I identify as black", despite claims that she is actually white.

On Monday, Ms Dolezal resigned from the anti-racism organisation NAACP, after her parents said she was pretending to be black.

Speaking to NBC, she said that from the age of five she "was drawing self-portraits with the brown crayon instead of the peach crayon".

She added that she "takes exception" to suggestions she had deceived people.

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Media captionRuthanne and Larry Dolezal have urged Rachel to seek help for "personal identity issues"

"This is not some freak-show, Birth of a Nation blackface performance," she told NBC's Matt Lauer. "This is on a real connected level how I've had to go there with the experience."

Hours beforehand, her mother Rutheanne Dolezal told the BBC's Victoria Derbyshire programme that her daughter had become "disconnected from reality".

Ms Dolezal's estranged parents say her origins are mostly white, with a small amount of Native American ancestry. They say that she has no black origins.

They have produced childhood pictures of her daughter with pale skin, freckles and fair hair.

Discrimination case dismissed

US media reported on Tuesday that in 2002 she sued the historically black Howard University for discriminating against her for being white.

She subsequently claimed to be the victim of hate crimes for being black.

Ms Dolezal, then known as Rachel Moore, received a Master of Fine Arts degree from Howard University 13 years ago.

Court documents obtained by the Smoking Gun website show that she sued the university for "discrimination based on race, pregnancy, family responsibilities and gender".

As part of her claim, she alleged that some of her artwork had been removed from an exhibition in order to favour black students.

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Image caption Rachel Dolezal sings the civil rights anthem "We Shall Overcome" at a rally in March 2015

She said the art was removed from the 2001 exhibition because Howard University was "motivated by a discriminatory purpose to favour African-American students over".

The case was dismissed in 2004, with no evidence found that Ms Dolezal had been discriminated against. That decision was upheld by the Court of Appeal in 2005. She was ordered to pay costs of $2,728.50 (£1,752) to Howard.

It is estimated that 93% of Howard University students are black, while only 1% are white. Its alumni include the writer Nobel Prize winning novelist Toni Morrison.

NAACP resignation

On Monday, Rachel Dolezal announced her resignation as president of the The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People's Spokane Chapter in Washington in the wake of the race row.

An online petition calling for her to step down received hundred of signatures. She had already lost her job as a lecturer in African-American studies at a local university.

According to the Spokesman-Review newspaper, Ms Dolezal said she was a mix of white, black and American Indian on her application to serve on Spokane's citizen police ombudsman commission in January.

The city's ethics committee said it was investigating the allegations, in addition to a separate investigation related to Ms Dolezal on a different matter.

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