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Alice A. Dunnigan – Writing her way to the White House

December 9, 2010 in 1960s-1970s

Alice Dunnigan, Kentucky journalist at the White House

Alice Dunnigan (1906 - 1983) from Russellville, KY

Throughout history in order to make change possible, one person has historically sparked that change. Alice A. Dunnigan was a woman from Kentucky who did just that, make change in the journalism industry. Alice A. Dunnigan became the first African American to receive White House credentials and was reporting on the highest levels of government business. Before she was able to accomplish such amazing things in her journalism career, she was forced to live through racial tensions and segregation.

Born in Russellville, Kentucky in 1906, Alice A. Dunnigan attended the local segregated high school. After graduation she went on to get a degree from Kentucky State University, a historically black college. After graduating from Kentucky State University she became a teacher in Todd County Public schools for eighteen years. During her teaching career she was very active in publishing reports in the local newspapers about issue of civil rights and equality for both gender and race. Her reporting scored her a job reporting on the campaign for President Truman. After reporting for his campaign she got a job on the Committee on Equal Opportunity under President Kennedy and President Johnson. She was reporting for the highest level of government as possible and was nationally recognized for her reporting.

Alice A. Dunnigan was a very influential woman in the journalism field. She worked for the Associated Negro Press,  the first African American female to have a Capitol press pass and the first African American elected to the Women’s National Press Club..  She opened the door to all African American men and women in the United States who wanted to be writers on a national or state level. She is a great example of someone who used her abilities to spread her message of equality for all too as many different people as possible.

Dunnigan, Alice Allison, A Black Woman’s Experience: From Schoolhouse to White House (Dorrence, 1974).
“Milestones in Journalism Diversity,” NewsWatch, – dunnigan.html (June 17, 2003).
“Women in Kentucky,”
“Historical Marker”

by kcjohn2

“Colored Notes” Segregation in Newspapers

December 8, 2010 in 1950s-1960s, Political history, Social history

In the days of Jim Crow laws, the “Colored Notes” section was a staple in every mainstream newspaper in the country. The “Colored Notes” included social information concerning the African American community. Not only did the section report on the activities of the professional and middle class, but also included special honors or events pertaining to African Americans. In addition, this section typically carried the obituaries of prominent African Americans – separated from the main Obituary section of the paper. In Lexington, all three of the big newspapers had these separate sections: the Lexington Herald, the Lexington Leader, and theSunday Herald-Leader. When searching newspaper archive databases for research purposes of African American events or people before 1969, you are sure to get of list of almost all articles labeled “Colored Notes.”

To some in the African American community this was one more way to perpetuate segregation, while others felt it was the only way to have their news even reported. Especially in Lexington, the part of the community that felt this way was afraid if the “Colored Notes” were wiped out, the community as a whole would just vanish from the news and have no way of knowing what was going on within.

Not until the end of the 1950’s did people in Lexington begin to voice their opposition to not only the separation of the news, but also the use of the term “colored” to describe the African American community. At the forefront of the movement was CORE and a few other civil rights activist groups. In 1964 a reader’s poll was taken to determine whether readers wanted to keep the section or do away with it. This poll reported the readers wanted to keep the “Colored Notes” in publication. Finally in 1969, the Lexington newspapers did away with the “Colored Notes” section. (See “Colored Notes to be Eliminated,” Lexington Herald-Leader, 02/01/1969, p. 22.)

African Americans were faced with racism in so many avenues of life. Some may say this was not the perpetuation of segregation, but I disagree. Separate is not equal even in regards to the newspaper.

“Colored Notes in Kentucky Newspapers,” Notable Kentucky African Americans. University of Kentucky Libraries. Reinette Jones, 2003. Accessed 08 Dec. 2010.

Courage Under Fire

November 7, 2010 in 1940s-1950s, 1950s-1960s, 1960s-1970s, Oral history, Political history, Social history

Anne Braden, KET bio

Anne Braden, 1999

The more one examines the life of Anne Braden, the more one realizes how strong a resolve she possessed. Without the proverbial “dog in the fight” she embarked on a mission for social equality for blacks, when, as a southern white women she had nothing to gain by doing so. Her journey began in 1945 as a young liberal reporter for the “Anniston star” a newspaper in Birmingham AL. She would confess though that the true turning point for her was what became know as the “Truman Doctrine” in 1947.

Knowing that there were things like the “Loyalty Oaths”“Red Scare” and the dreaded “HUAC” to contend with, she persevered. She and her husband and any group or organization they were associated with were constantly under the surveillance by the authorities. She was indicted for sedition in 1954 while she and her husband Carl had two (2) toddlers. Her husband was convicted and sentence to 15 years that same year. She was arrested on numerous occasions. One of her last arrests was at 72yrs old in 1996 for protesting the lack of hiring of minorities in professional golf.

One of her daughters died at the age of ten (10). Her husband passed away in 1975, eleven (11) years after the death of her second born. She continued her work to bring about racial equality for another thirty (30) years before passing away in 2006. Why would someone who had so much to lose, especially in the 50’s & 60’s, continue to fight for the rights of others?


See the Anne Braden Institute for Social Justice Research,

Mary Elliot Flannery

October 13, 2010 in 1920s-30s, Intellectual history, Political history, Social history

          I have decided to do research on Mary Elliot Flannery, Kentucky’s and the south’s first female legislator.  After reading about her, I couldn’t help but wonder where the determination and the will to push through a campaign during a time in which women were not received well in politics or many other aspects of American society comes from?  It’s a significant reason why I chose her.  Also, she is a native Kentuckian and was a public school teacher, something I someday hope to relate to.

            Born in 1867 as Mary Elliot into an affluent family, she attended college at Barboursville College in West Virginia before completing her education at the University of Kentucky.  She then became a school teacher and married a man named William “Harvey” Flannery and moved to Pike County, Kentucky due to her husband’s job.  It was here where Flannery began her career as a writer, writing columns for the Ashland Daily advocating legislation for women’s rights.  Through her articles in the newspaper Flannery was able to muster support for her cause and by 1921, only a year after womens’ suffrage had become constitutional law, won a seat in the Kentucky House of Representatives by a 250 vote margin.  She continued her work in politics and journalism until her death in 1933 being an active voice for women in Kentucky, the south, and the entire United States.  She was a member of the Kentucky Equal Rights Association, the General Federation of Women club, Daughter’s of the Revolution, and founded a chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy.  She also had an unsuccessful run at Secretary of State in 1923.  Keep in mind that she was able to accomplish all of this while raising 5 children!

            Mary Elliot Flannery was one of the most influential women of Kentucky and the civil rights and women’s suffrage movement.  Researching the life and work of such a prominent figure will help to highlight a hero and progressive leader of both the commonwealth and women’s history.

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