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Exiting NAACP leader Dolezal sued historically black Howard University alleging racial discrimination

| Tuesday, June 16, 2015, 12:01 a.m.

SPOKANE — The former head of the NAACP's Spokane chapter who stepped down amid a furor over claims that she is a white woman posing as black filed a racial discrimination lawsuit against a historically black college in 2002.

Rachel Dolezal sued Howard University, where she attended graduate school, for discrimination based on “race, pregnancy, family responsibilities and gender, as well as retaliation,” according to a 2005 District of Columbia Court of Appeals ruling in the case.

Dolezal, who then went by her married name, Rachel Moore, claimed the university blocked her appointment as a teaching assistant, failed to hire her as an art teacher upon graduation and removed some of her pieces from a student art exhibition in favor of works by black students.

“Moore alleged that the decision of Dean Benjamin of Howard to remove some of her artworks from a February 2001 student exhibition was motivated by a discriminatory purpose to favor African-American students over Moore,” read the court documents, first revealed by the website The Smoking Gun.

The appeals court upheld a lower court's ruling throwing out the lawsuit.

Once the suit was thrown out and an appeals court affirmed the decision, Dolezal was ordered to fork over nearly $3,000 to the university for legal costs.

As a graduate student, she incorporated black subjects in her artwork, but professors said it was always very clear she was a white student.

Dolezal came under intense scrutiny last week as questions emerged about her racial background and a white couple who identified themselves as her biological parents came forward to say she had misrepresented her ethnic background.

Dolezal, who also holds a post in Spokane's city government, identified herself as white, African-American and Native American on her application, City Council President Ben Stuckart said. He said the city had opened an investigation of the veracity of her application.

In announcing her resignation from the NAACP, Dolezal said she had remained quiet through the controversy out of respect for the work of the civil rights group. She did not directly address whether she had misrepresented her race.

“The dialogue has unexpectedly shifted internationally to my personal identity in the context of defining race and ethnicity,” she said. “I have waited in deference while others expressed their feelings, beliefs, confusions and even conclusions — absent the full story.”

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