Ten Confederate flag posters — with an accompanying cotton stalk —were found displayed throughout American University's grounds on Tuesday, the latest racist incident to happen on the Washington, D.C., campus this year.
The incident coincided with a campus discussion on the future of a new Antiracist Research and Policy Center and drew disgust from students and administrators.
Michael T. Barry, a 25-year-old doctoral student in U.S. history, snapped photos of a few of the posters as he left class about 10:30 p.m. He had just heard a seminar on the history of racism by AU history and international relations professor Ibram X. Kendi.
Barry's photos show a Confederate flag with the words, "Huzzah for Dixie" and an attached piece of cotton on several different campus bulletin boards.
One poster appears below a sign for the university's Center for Israel Studies, another is over a photo of Michael Jackson and under a sign advertising American Studies Month. Another sits on top of a "Visiting Writers Series" poster featuring photos of African-American women.
Fanta Aw, American's vice president of campus life, said the school was first notified of the flyers about 10 p.m. on Tuesday, when they were told one was posted in a classroom at the Mary Graydon Center. Aw said the posters were found at three campus locations.
The school, she said, is investigating the incidents along with campus police.
On Wednesday morning, the school announced it has identified a suspect: A white man believed to be about 40 years old and 5 feet 10 inches tall. A photo released by the university shows him wearing a pink t-shirt, a yellow construction vest, an orange hard hat and camouflage pants.
The university is asking for the public's help in identifying the man.
The posters were found on the same night Kendi held a campus presentation on his plans for the university's new Antiracist Research and Policy Center, which opens in 2018. Kendi is founding director of the center.
"We were all pretty upset and confused considering Prof. Kendi had just unveiled his new antiracism center at AU earlier that night, a program we were all excited about," Barry said. "The posters and cotton were a literal and figurative sign that racism remains present and real, even on our campus."
Aw said the university stands with Kendi and the new center, adding, "we will not be deterred by this cowardly attempt at intimidation."
The displays follow a May incident in which bananas hanging from string nooses were found in three spots on campus. The bananas were marked AKA, the acronym for Alpha Kappa Alpha, a sorority consisting of mostly African-American women.
"These racist, hateful messages have no place in our community," Aw said on May 1, after the incident was uncovered. "The safety of our students is paramount."
Anyone with information on the incidents should contact AU at 202-885-2527 or submit a tip online here.
Follow Sean Rossman on Twitter: @SeanRossman