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Meet the First Black Woman to Cover the White House

Alice Allison Dunnigan

Alice Allison Dunnigan had a natural talent for writing, and nothing prevented her from fulfilling her dream of being a journalist. In fact, she was so successful as a journalist that she became the first Black woman accredited to cover the White House.
Born in 1906 in Russellville, Kentucky, her father was a sharecropper and her mother took in laundry. Her grandparents were born into slavery. She entered school at age four, and was reading before first grade. At age 13, she became a reporter for a local Black newspaper called the Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer. Later, she attended Kentucky Normal and Industrial Institute (now known as Kentucky State University).

Dunnigan endured segregation and sexism throughout her entire career. When she accepted the position as a Washington correspondent for The Chicago Defender, she was initially offered less money than her male peers until she proved how good she was.

However, accepting that position prepared her for the next major step in her career. As a writer for the Associated Negro Press news service, she sought press credentials to cover Congress and the Senate. She was granted clearance just six months later, and made history as the the first African-American woman to gain such accreditation.

Sadly, not everyone was ready to accept her in this position; The world was still full of many racists and sexists who took action against her. She was barred from reporting on a speech given by then-President Dwight Eisenhower. Even worse, when Senator Robert Taft died, she was forced to wrote her report while sitting in the servants’ section.

Despite the mistreatment though, she still fulfilled her dream. In 1947, Dunnigan was named Bureau Chief of the Associated Negro Press in Washington D.C. where she supervised content that was syndicated in 112 different African-American newspapers across the country. She held that position for 14 years.

Sadly, she died in 1983 but was inducted into the Black Journalists Hall of Fame in 1985.