Woman Accused of Lying About Race Has Belhaven University Ties

An NAACP leader, professor and artist with ties to Jackson, Miss., has made national headlines after her parents alleged their daughter has been falsely portraying herself as African-American.

Rachel Dolezal, who now lives in Washington, graduated from Belhaven University in 2000 and was active in the Jackson community through Voices of Calvary Ministries, her mother Ruthanne Dolezal told The Clarion-Ledger. Her daughter, she says, came to Jackson after graduating from high school in Troy, Montana, because of her interest in Mississippi-based civil rights activist and Voices of Calvary founder John Perkins. She was also drawn to Belhaven’s art program.

 

An NAACP leader, professor and artist with ties to Jackson has made national headlines after her parents alleged their daughter has been falsely portraying herself as African-American.

Rachel Dolezal, who now lives in Washington, graduated from Belhaven University in 2000 and was active in the Jackson community through Voices of Calvary Ministries, her mother Ruthanne Dolezal told The Clarion-Ledger.

Her daughter, she says, came to Jackson after graduating from high school in Troy, Montana, because of her interest in Mississippi-based civil rights activist and Voices of Calvary founder John Perkins. She was also drawn to Belhaven’s art program.

During her time in Jackson, Rachel kept busy with her artwork and volunteerism with Voice of Calvary Ministries, where she tutored children and taught drawing classes.

Perkins’ daughter Joanie Perkins-Potter, a local attorney, is a friend of Rachel’s who still speaks with her regularly.

She said Rachel is “definitely white.”

“She’s a young girl who came here really believing in social justice and wanting to make a change in the world,” Perkins-Potter said of Rachel’s time in Jackson, noting she remembers her interest in and identification with the city’s black community.

“I think she had an identity crisis, and it got worse and worse,” she said.

Attempts by The Clarion-Ledger to reach Rachel on Friday were unsuccessful.

Perkins-Potter said after Rachel moved with her husband, an African-American man she married in Jackson in 2000, “I noticed that she learned to braid hair, started wearing braids and her skin started being more tan.”

Perkins-Potter said she thinks when Rachel identified a black man as her father, “she’s really just trying to say he’s her play father … and she just got carried away.”

She noted Rachel refers to her as “Aunt Joanie” though they are not related.

Rachel also worked with Belhaven President Roger Parrott on recruiting and retaining diverse students at the college, according to her LinkedIn page. Parrott said he had no comment when reached by cell phone on Friday, but did say she was never employed by the university.

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