Alice Allison Dunnigan is a name for right now. During a time when there were severely limited opportunities for women in the male-dominated field of journalism, Dunnigan, a black woman, rose to the top, mastering her craft and defying policies that segregated journalists. She was the first African-American woman to report on the White House, Congress, the State Department and the Supreme Court.
The Kentucky native also made history as the first black woman to go on an official whistle-stop tour with President Harry Truman, according to a Newseum exhibit on the ground-breaker. A life-sized sculpture of Dunnigan is on display at the Washington, D.C. museum through this month.
“We, of course, have known the story of Alice Dunnigan for years. She is part of our news history gallery, so we knew her story very well, and we are very happy to have her,” says Sonya Gavankar, the Newseum’s director of public relations.
After World War II, Dunnigan worked at the Associated Negro Press and became the head of that organization’s Washington Bureau in 1947, a job she held for 14 years supplying copy to roughly 112 African-American newspapers across the U.S.
“It feels like we can tell her story so much better because she is here,” Gavanker says. And the “huge response” has been positive. “The outpouring of love and attention that she has gotten has been exciting for us,” Gavanker adds. “Many people did not know her story, especially journalists of color, and they are coming to pay tribute. It’s been great.”
Once the D.C. tour is over, Dunnigan’s sculpture will be transported to Kentucky. Go meet her while she’s still in town.