Newseum to Display Statue of Kentucky's Dunnigan, First African-American Woman to Cover Congress

Jul 11, 2018

A statue of Kentucky native Alice Dunnigan will be on display at the Newseum, the Washington, D.C museum that promotes an understanding of freedom of the press and the First Amendment. Dunnigan was the first African-American woman to get credentials to cover Congress and the White House.

Dunnigan was a sharecropper's daughter from Logan County who became a teacher and then a journalist working for the American Negro Press. In 1947 she was the first African-American woman to receive Congressional press credentials. 

Her statue will be on display at the Newseum beginning September 21 and will remain there for several months. After that, the statue will become part of the West Kentucky African-American Heritage Center in her hometown of Russellville.

Michael Morrow is a volunteer historian in Russellville who serves as a guide at the African-American Heritage Center. Morrow said Dunnigan had to push hard to get access to the highest levels of government.

"She was attending President Robert Taft’s funeral and when she came in she showed her press credentials and they just looked at her and put her with the servants. And after talking to people she found out that blacks were not allowed to report on Congress, the D.C. police, the Supreme Court or the president," said Morrow. "And she felt that was wrong, so she started protesting and raising Cain about it and eventually she got it overturned."

Joe Gran Clark is an attorney who is active in historic preservation in Russellville and said Dunnigan’s accomplishments have a lasting impact.

"She was a pioneer in so many areas that are so relevant today. The racism that she had to fight against, the sexism. She talks about as she got older, ageism affected her as well," said Clark. "In today's world where the press is under attack, where there are so many social issues that need to be talked about and reported about, she was there to fight those battles, to get into the hearings and the briefings, so that she could hear the story, ask the questions."

Dunnigan’s bronze statue has been created by Kentucky sculptor Amanda Matthews and is being cast at the Prometheus Foundry in Lexington.