Alice Allison Dunnigan

Quick Look At Dunnigan

Alice Allison Dunnigan an African American journalist. She was the first Black female correspondent at the White House and the first Black female member of Congress's press galleries.

Early Life

Alice Allison Dunnigan was born in Russellville, Kentucky, on April 27, 1906. Her father was a tobacco sharecropper and her mother did other peoples' laundry.


Dunnigan's career began at just 13 years of age. This was because she went to school in a segregated school system that only allowed Black children 10 years of schooling. She started writing one-sentence passages for the Owensboro Enterprise, the local newspaper in her area. Despite the education limit for African Americans, a local Sunday School teacher allowed and helped Dunnigan to attend college. She went to Kentucky University and convinced on becoming a teacher, she completed a teaching course there. Dunnigan started teaching in the Todd County School System, a segregated school system in 1924 and continued until 1942. While teaching history, she discovered that her students had no knowledge of how Black people had huge contributions to Kentucky's history. Upon discovering this, Dunnigan created "Kentucky Fact Sheets" for her students. In 1939, she tried to get these fact sheets published, but no publishers were willing to do that until over 50 years later, in 1982. In 1932, she got married for the second time to a man named Charles Dunnigan with whom she had one child. While teaching history in schools, Dunnigan was also taking journalism classes at Tennessee A&I University. In 1936, while still teaching public schools, she took on the position of a freelance writer for Chicago's branch of American Negro Press.

After leaving her teaching job in 1942, Dunnigan became more involved in journalism. In 1946, she started writing for the Chicago Defender and working for the American Negro Press full time. Through the American Negro Press, she was granted a Congressional Press Pass, with which she was able to report on news from Congress. This made her the first Black female to gain a Congressional Press Pass. In 1948, Dunnigan started covering news from the White House, making her the first Black female correspondent at the White House. She covered Harry S. Truman's presidential campaign and often asked questions regarding the Civil Rights movement and the circumstances of Black America that white politicians tended to ignore. In 1953, Dunnigan was kept from attending and reporting on President Dwight D. Eisenhower that was given at a white-only theater. Then, during the funeral of Senator Robert A. Taft, not only was she kept from reporting, but Dunnigan was forced to sit with the servants. In 1960, she left American Negro Press to work for President Lyndon B. Johnson during his campaign and presidency. She retired 10 years later in 1970. In 1974, Dunnigan published her autobiography, A Black Woman's Experience: From Schoolhouse to White House. She passed away on May 6, 1983.

Alice Allison Dunnigan's writing and the things that her questions forced politicians to think about racial issues made a difference. Despite the discrimination she continued to face, she kept climbing to the top and breaking barriers.