Alice Allison Dunnigan is credited for being the first African-American female correspondent to receive White House credentials. She was a journalist, civil rights activist, and author who wrote about her career and life experiences in her autobiography entitled, “Alice A. Dunnigan: A Black Woman’s Experience.”
Dunnigan was born in 1906 near Russellville, Kentucky, to Willie and Lena Pittman Allison. Her father was a sharecropper and her mother took in laundry to help with the family’s expenses.
At the young age of 13, Dunnigan began writing for the Owensboro Enterprise. She knew early on that she wanted to report on events happening throughout the world. Dunnigan completed a teaching course at Kentucky Normal and Industrial Institute. She then taught Kentucky History in the Todd County School System. She realized that her students were not aware of African-American history and the many contributions they had made to the country. Dunnigan decided to publish a collection of information about black Kentuckians entitled, “The Fascinating Story of Black Kentuckians: Their Heritage and Tradition.”
She went on to serve as chief of the Washington bureau of the Associated Negro Press. In 1948, Dunnigan was one of three African-Americans and one of two women in the press corps that followed President Harry S. Truman’s Western campaign. That year, she also became the first African-American female White House correspondent, and was the first black woman elected to the Women’s National Press Club. As a correspondent, Dunnigan covered the President of the United States, White House events, and news briefings.
In 1960, Dunnigan left her seat in the press galleries to take a position on Lyndon B. Johnson’s campaign for the Democratic nomination. John F. Kennedy won the nomination, but chose Johnson as his running mate and named Dunnigan education consultant of the President’s Committee on Equal Employment Opportunity. She remained with the committee until 1965. During her lifetime, Dunnigan received over 50 awards for her journalism. She died in 1983 in Washington, D.C.