Every March, during Women History Month, we highlight the contributions and challenges of women. This coming Monday, March 30 – yes, tomorrow – at a special event at Calvert Library Prince Frederick, we will showcase Alice Dunnigan, a woman who was a pioneer of the Black press and the civil rights movement in America.
Our speaker and guide to Alice Dunnigan’s life will be Calvert County’s own Carol McCabe Booker, our inspiring 2014 WOW speaker. Carol has edited a just-released autobiography of Dunningan, Alone atop the Hill. As Booker tells the story, you will walk in Dunnigan’s footsteps, get a history lesson on race relations in America, and likely identify some similarities with today’s workplace as well.
Alice Allison Dunnigan grew up under meager circumstances. With persistence and hard work, she lived the American dream. Born in 1906 near Russellville, Kentucky, she rose from rural poverty – working as a sharecropper, laundry woman, cook, nanny, and school teacher before becoming the first female Black journalist to cover the White House and Capitol Hill.
Dunnigan wrote her first newspaper column at age 14! She was hired as a Louisville reporter in 1935, and moved to Washington, D.C. in 1942, where she became chief of the one-person Washington bureau of the Associated Negro Press, covering the White House, Congress, and the Supreme Court. She gave an unvarnished account of the state of civil rights in America in the 1940s and 1950s, long before these issues hit the mainstream press.
Booker says that Dunnigan’s reporting documents the “contemporary history of the Negro’s role in the fight for civil rights, equality and justice.” Dunnigan’s reporting constituted an unwavering voice of what was then called “the Negro press” that helped to bring civil rights issues to the public eye. Her keen intellect, determination, and dignity enabled her to succeed despite many obstacles. Dunnigan believed that gender was a bigger obstacle in achieving her goals than race.
Today, women comprise far less than half (38%) of newsroom staff and even fewer supervisors. Women earn 82% of what men earn, with women of color earning even less. Having smart, determined, and savvy reporters such as Alice Dunnigan helps to ensure that the issues facing women get the ink they deserve – from equal educational opportunities and equal pay, to child care, sexual harassment, human trafficking, domestic violence and rape.
If she were alive and reporting today, what would be Alice Dunnigan’s headlines? Join the Calvert County Commission for Women, Calvert Library, and Concerned Black Women this Monday, March 30, from 7:00 to 8:30 p.m. at Calvert Library Prince Frederick to find out!