Journalism

Press Correspondents and Journalists

Who was the first black woman accredited to the White House and the Congressional press galleries?

In 1944 Alice Dunnigan (1906–1983) of the Associated Negro Press became the first black woman accredited to the White House and the State Department, and the first to gain access to the House of Representatives and Senate press galleries. At the State Department, she joined James L. Hicks, assistant chief of the Negro Newspapers Publishers Association, who had been the first black accredited to the department shortly before. Dunnigan was also the first black elected to the Women’s National Press Club. In 1948 she became the first black news correspondent to cover a presidential campaign, when she covered Harry S. Truman’s whistle-stop trip. She was chief of the Washington bureau of the Associated Negro Press for fourteen years. Dunnigan was born on April 27, 1906, near Russellville, Kentucky. She attended Kentucky State College (now University), earning a teaching certificate in elementary education, and later graduated from West Virginia Industrial College (now West Virginia State University); she often taught and attended school at the same time. Poor salaries for teachers and the need to do menial jobs when the schools were not closed led her to seek a government job. In 1942 Dunnigan obtained a job with the War Department in Washington, D.C., and by the end of the war she had risen to the level of economist in the Office of Price Administration. Her interest in writing had begun in her childhood; she wrote a local news column for the Owenborough Enterprise, a black-run publication, and continued to write in a variety of formats during her years in Kentucky. It was this background that led to her appointment as chief of the Associated Negro Press in Washington. Dunnigan served in a variety of government positions until 1970, when her Democratic Party allegiance proved to be a disadvantage. She continued to write after leaving government service, publishing her autobiography in 1974 and a second book in 1979. Dunnigan received numerous awards during her career, including induction into the Journalism Hall of Fame at the University of Kentucky in 1982.



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