Alice Allison Dunnigan

November 15, 2010 in 1920s-30s, 1940s-1950s, 1950s-1960s, 1960s-1970s, Historical Decades, Historiography, Intellectual history, Political history, Social history

Alice Allison Dunnigan (1906–1983)

Alice Allison Dunnigan (1906–1983)

 Alice Allison Dunnigan was born to a farmer in Russelville, Kentucky in 1906 and grew up unwanted by her grandmother for not being “black enough” and eventually turning into one of the most accomplished African American female journalists.

Ms. Dunnigan took on many responsibilties early, cooking meals, ironing for her mother and helping her father eith chores on the farm.  Her desire for an education could have risen from being exposed to a lifestyle of tedious work at such a young age.  Either way, she wanted an education but was unsure of how to aquire one being an African American female in the south.  With the constraints put on her by the oppresive society of the times, Alice began to write.  And by age fourteen she had established a weekly column in the Owensboro Enterprise titled “Home Town News”.  She sold her paper for 5 cents, keeping 3 cents for herself.

After high school she reached her dream of attending college, enrolled in a teacher training course, but continued to write, publishing articles in newspapers in Hopkinsville, Paducah, and Louisville.  Even though she began to teach at age eighteen, she taught at all black schools and was not paid during summer months.  She was forced to pick up various jobs in order to make ends meet while school was out of session.  One of those jobs was working for a Louisville newspaper in which again she published her own stories titled “Scribbles from Alice’s Scrapbook.”

In 1942, however, Alice lost her teaching job when her school closed.  She moved to Washington, D.C. to find work and found it in the Associated Negro Press.  The ANP sent stories to 112 weekly newspapers acrosss the country and some foreign countries.  Although she was only part-time, after World War II she was hired as a full time reporter.  Ms. Dunnigan eventually secured a capitol press pass, allowing her to cover news events of the Congress which were generally kept off limits to the public and most reporters, and especially females and African Americans.  By gaining a capitol press pass she became the first black female to do so.

Her career with the ANP took off and Alice found herself covering all three branches of government and even sports news.  In 1948 she covered the campaign trail of Harry Truman with all male reporters.  In 1961 President Kennedy named her Education Consultant for the Equal Employment Opportunity Committee.  In 1967 she toured around the country with Lady Bird Johnson visiting Schools across the nation and checking on the progress of American education.  And from 1967 to 1971 she worked on the Council on Youth Opportunity for both president Johnson and president Nixon.  After retiring from her work as a political activist, Ms. Dunnigan wrote a book documenting her life story titled A Black Woman’s Experience-From Schoolhouse to White House and published another book in 1982 titled The Fascinating Story of Black Kentuckians.  Ms. Dunnigan always dreamed of accomplishing equal opportunities with men, stating “I hope to live to see an ordinary woman go as far as an ordinary man.  A woman has to work twice as hard” (Crowe-Carraco 56).

Alice Allison Dunnigan did what was essentially impossible for a woman of her time.  Born at the turn of the 20th century, in an era in which women could not vote and African Americans were regarded legally as an inferior race, Ms. Dunnigan accomplished what most women of her background could only dream of.  What makes Alice different from other women who came from the same status as herself?  Where does a woman such as Alice get the motivation and desire to aspire to greatness?  Whatever the case, it is no secret that Alice Allison Dunnigan was one of the original trailblazers not only for women of Kentucky, but for African Americans and women everywhere.

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Crowe-Carraco, Carol.  Women Who Made a Difference.  Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky, 1989.
Dawson, Nancy J. “Alice Allison Dunnigan: Led the Fight for Black Journalists,” The Crisis (July-August 2007), 39-41.

1 response to Alice Allison Dunnigan

  1. Its amazing to see someone life Alice have the courage to go after what she dreamed of and to be such an accomplished writer and teacher at such a young age. Despite the preconcieved notions that many people held against her for being a black women in the early 1900’s, shows unbelievable strength and bravery. To be an 18 year old today of any race or gender and publishing weekly articles in three different newspapers across the state really demonstrates her will to a successful journalist and educator.

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