Decades after she became a pioneer journalist, Russellville’s Alice Allison Dunnigan is being recognized for her unique accomplishments.
A statue of Dunnigan, who died in 1983, is featured at the Struggles for Emancipation and Equality in Kentucky (SEEK) Museum in Russellville. This month, The Society of Professional Journalists named the Dunnigan statue park as a National Historic Site in Journalism.
The designation “brings more attention to the facility, but more important it brings attention to her,” said Michael Morrow, SEEK Museum director.
Dunnigan was the first Black female admitted to the White House press corps in 1947.
Her father was a sharecropper and her mother took in laundry for a living. She first became a teacher before becoming a reporter for the Chicago Defender newspaper.
In Washington, she covered presidents from Harry Truman to John F. Kennedy. From 1947 to 1961, she was chief of the Washington bureau of the Associated Negro Press and later worked for the President’s Committee on Equal Employment Opportunity and the President’s Commission on Youth Opportunity.
The statue was dedicated at a ceremony in 2019.
Since then, the site has become a popular stopping point.
“You can come around any time and see people around” it, Morrow said.
At the 2019 dedication ceremony, Soraya Dunnigan Brandon, Alice Dunnigan’s youngest grandchild, said she works as a journalist and educator in North Carolina largely because of the example set by her grandmother.
“The example she set was one of professionalism,” Brandon said. “She instilled in me the importance of having a voice and always being prepared. She was persistent, and she taught me to never give up.”
The bronze Dunnigan statue at the SEEK Museum was previously on display at the Newseum, a Washington facility dedicated to preserving the history of American journalism, and at the University of Kentucky, the Truman Presidential Library and Museum in Missouri and Kentucky State University.
According to a press release from The Society of Professional Journalists, the Historic Sites program “honors the people and places that have played important roles in American journalistic history.” A bronze plaque will be placed at the location to distinguish it as a National Historic Site in Journalism, according to the release.
While the outdoor Dunnigan statue draws regular visitors, the SEEK Museum has been impacted like other facilities by the COVID-19 pandemic, with tours by appointment only and limited to six visitors at a time.
“It has put a damper on school tours,” Morrow said, adding that he is “hoping and praying” things return to normalcy soon.
– For more about the SEEK Museum see seekmuseum.org.