SPOKANE, Wash. — When she moved into her uncle’s basement in the largely white town of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, in 2004, Rachel A. Dolezal was still blond and pale-skinned and identified herself as a white woman — one who had left a black husband and had a biracial child.
But within a few years, her already deep commitment to black causes and culture intensified. Co-workers and relatives began hearing from her or others that her background was mixed-race — and even that she had called herself black.
Many of them questioned the way she described herself, while others accepted it at face value. No one seems to have made an issue of it, but most people saw in her a force of personality that made her a strong and passionate advocate at the Human Rights Education Institute in Coeur d’Alene, where she began working soon afterward.