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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.

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