Rachel Dolezal says she identifies as a black woman ... which she claims began when she was just five years old.
Dolezal, sitting down with Matt Lauer on NBC News' "Today," says she used to color self-portraits as a child ... using a brown crayon instead of a peach one.
The ousted NAACP leader claims she never doctored her appearance -- or donned "blackface" -- in order to pass as African-American, explaining, "I don't put on blackface as a performance ... I certainly don’t stay out of the sun."
Dolezal was joined by two of her sons, Isaiah and Franklin, who Dolezal says identify her "culturally" as black.