The Hard Road: A Woman of Integrity

April 13, 2011 in 1940s-1950s, 1950s-1960s, 1960s-1970s, Political history, Social history

The Hard Road

A Woman of Integity


            Alice Allison Dunnigan was born in 1906 to a sharecropper and a laundress.  She came up under meager means but was taught a strict work ethic by her parents.  She had a love of writing and aspired to see the world through the eyes of a newspaper reporter.  She began her writing career at the age of thirteen when she began writing for the Owensboro Enterprise.

            Dunnigan completed the ten years of school allowed in the segregated Russellville school system and continued on to Kentucky State University.  She completed the teaching course at the university and began her teaching career in 1924.[1]  She became a history teacher at the segregated Todd County school system.  During her tenure as a school teacher she learned that African American children did not get the required learning in respect to their cultural heritage.  She devised a system of teaching them by inventing a brilliant learning tool called “Kentucky Fact Sheets”.  In 1939 they were collected for publication but no publisher would publish them.  They were finally published in 1982 as The Fascinating Story of Black Kentuckians: Their Heritage and Tradition.[2]

            Dunnigan finished teaching school in 1942.  She moved on to her original love of writing and landed a job as a writer for the Associated Negro Press news service.  She wanted to work as a political reporter covering the national scene but her request for credentials to cover the Congress and Senate were denied.  Six months later she was granted press clearance and became the first African-American woman to gain accreditation.  She experienced racism from the beginning.  She often sat in hearings where African-Americans were referred to as “niggers” and had to sit with servants in order to cover President Taft’s funeral.[3]

            President Eisenhower requested that she give him a list of questions prior to meetings because her questions were so hard hitting.  Most of her questions centered around race issues and the abolition of the Jim Crow laws.  She refused to give her questions beforehand because no other reporter was required to do so. 

            Dunnigan has become a rich part of Kentucky history and a great example of female African-American heroism.  Against all odds she prevailed in one of the worst chapters of American history.  Her drive to teach African-American children to be proud of their heritage and her passion to change the way our country was heading is a tribute to her and those that have followed in her footsteps.  For further study you may want to read her autobiography, A Black Woman’s Experience:  From Schoolhouse to White House.  Alice Allison Dunnigan passed away on May 6th, 1983, in Washington, D.C.

2 responses to The Hard Road: A Woman of Integrity

  1. Before reading this article I had not heard of Dunnigan or her amazing accomplishments. She is a shining example of one who overcame the extensive challenges that faced African American Women and African Americans in general during a large part of the 20th century. I was genuinely impressed when she refused to send President Eisenhower her interview questions beforehand at his request, what a bold and brave stance to take for a woman in her situation. It was people like her that refused to let skin color hinder their accomplishments that pushed the civil right movement forward.

  2. I, along with Brett, had never heard of Alice Allison Dunnigan until now. She seemed to be a very motivated woman of her time and refused to fail. The information that I find most intriguing is the fact that she created the “Kentucky Facts Sheet” in order to help younger blacks learn more about their cultural heritage. I feel that Dunnigan helped the movement tremendously with her hunger to teach black children more about where they came from and what they had overcame and what was still left to fight for. It is also mind boggling that she refused a Presidents request, I mean what will and courage she had to be able to stand up to the president himself. I know that in that situation that I would have probably folded under pressure like that. I guess people do not really think about what they would do when their backs are against the wall. I feel that if Americans today would come together as a whole and fight like Dunnigan and the blacks did during the Civil Rights Movement that things would be a lot better. I enjoyed your essay, thanks for the post.

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