HistoryThe Word - Media

Alice Allison Dunnigan

Alice Allison Dunnigan (1906-1983) was an African American journalist and author who was a pioneering figure in the field of political journalism. Born in rural Kentucky, Dunnigan was the daughter of sharecroppers and grew up in poverty. Despite facing significant obstacles due to her race and gender, she went on to become the first African American woman to receive press credentials to cover the White House and Congress.

Alice Allison-Dunnigan in Washington DC

After graduating from high school, Dunnigan worked as a schoolteacher for several years before turning to journalism. She began her career as a freelance writer for local newspapers in Kentucky and Indiana and soon began to focus on political reporting.

In 1947, Dunnigan founded the Associated Negro Press (ANP), a wire service that provided coverage of African American issues and events to newspapers across the United States. This was a groundbreaking achievement for a black woman in an era when most major news organizations were closed to women and people of color.

Alice Allison-Dunnigan questions President John F. Kennedy

In 1948, Dunnigan applied for and received press credentials to cover the White House and Congress, becoming the first African American woman to do so. She used her position to advocate for civil rights and to push for more diverse representation in the press corps.

During her career, Dunnigan covered a wide range of historical events, including the presidential campaigns of Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, and John F. Kennedy, the 1963 March on Washington, and the United Nations General Assembly. She also wrote several books, including her memoir, “A Black Woman’s Experience: From Schoolhouse to White House” (1974).

Alice Allison Dunnigan, right, interviews screenwriters Arthur Arthur, left, and Virginia Kellogg.

Despite her groundbreaking achievements, Dunnigan faced significant discrimination and prejudice throughout her career. She often had to fight to be taken seriously as a journalist and was frequently excluded from events and interviews because of her race and gender.

Dunnigan’s legacy continues to inspire journalists and activists today. In 2018, she was posthumously inducted into the National Association of Black Journalists Hall of Fame, and in 2021, a statue of her was unveiled in her hometown of Russellville, Kentucky.

Alice Dunnigan, the first Black member of the White House press corps, received an award. 1959

Alice Allison Dunnigan died on May 6, 1983, in Washington, D.C. She was seventy-seven.

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