This post was originally published on Afro
By Deborah Bailey
More than half a century before Yamiche Alcindor covered the White House for the PBS NewsHour and before April Ryan’s White House coverage for Urban Radio Networks, there was Alice Dunnigan.
Dunnigan represented the Black press at the highest levels and paved the way for scores of journalists who still follow today.
“She was the first Black woman accredited to the House and Senate Press Galleries; first Black woman accredited to the White House, to the Supreme Court, to the State Department. And then in a year, (1948) she is the first Black woman to accompany a president on an official trip,” journalist Carol Booker said speaking at a C-Span book panel. Booker edited Dunnigan’s autobiography.
Born in 1906 to a sharecropper’s family in a rural community outside of Russellville, Ky., Dunnigan learned to read by 4-years-old and after completing the 10th grade in Russellville Schools (the highest level of completion for Blacks at that time in Kentucky) attended Kentucky A&I School (currently Kentucky State University).
In 1936, Dunnigan freelanced for the American Negro Press Association (ANP) while taking night courses at Howard University. She started writing for the Chicago Defender/Louisville Defender in 1946 while continuing with the ANP, where she eventually secured a press pass.
Dunnigan covered the campaign of Harry S. Truman and continued to cover the White House until 1960, when she joined the Lyndon B. Johnson campaign, for the then Democratic presidential candidate. Dunnigan continued with Johnson and joined the Vice Presidential Staff after the Kennedy or Johnson campaign won the bid for the White House in 1960.
Dunnigan continued in federal service with the Department of Labor after her work with the Johnson administration. She retired in 1970 and wrote her autobiography “A Black Woman’s Experience: From Schoolhouse to White House,” published in 1974. The edited version of Dunnigan’s autobiography by Carole Booker is titled “Alone Atop the Hill: The Autobiography of Alice Dunnigan, Pioneer of the National Black Press.”
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