Esteemed journalist and the country’s first black female White House correspondent broke through many barriers to report the truth.
Alice Allison Dunnigan was born near Russellville Kentucky, in 1906. The daughter of a sharecropper and a laundry lady, she would grow up to be a renowned journalist, author, and Civil Rights activist. She became a writer for the Owensboro Enterprise at the early age of 13, with dreams of becoming a newspaper reporter. She achieved that goal and much more.
While teaching Kentucky history in a still segregated Todd County school, she realized the African American contributions to the state were not being taught. Alice took it upon herself to create what she deemed “fact sheets regarding black history.” In 1939, these sheets became a manuscript and, in 1982, the work was published as “The Fascinating Story of Black Kentuckians.”
Dunnigan was a renowned journalist for her era, serving as the chief of the Washington Bureau of Associated Negro Press from 1947 till 1961. She worked her way into becoming an important member of the Senate and House of Representatives press galleries in 1947, but was promoted to a White House correspondent in 1948. Alice was given the honor of being an education consultant in 1961 to the President’s Committee on Equal Employment Opportunity. She was the very first black female White House correspondent in history, and the first black female allowed in the Senate and House press galleries.
Alice Dunnigan had access to several of our presidents, including Harry S. Truman and John F. Kennedy. It is unfortunate that she had to endure hardships and unfair treatment due to racial prejudices. At one presidential speech, for example, she was forced to sit in the servant section instead of with the other journalists. Despite all of this, Dunnigan held her head high and ended up being the first African American elected into the Woman’s National Press Club. Her strength and determination persevered during a time of severe racism in the country. Her great skill, writing and overall achievements lit the journalism path for woman of color.
Head on over to KYforKY.com for more profiles of prominent black Kentuckians.