How 3 Black Female Journalists View Politics and Power


There was a time when a U.S. president could wander around inside a moving train, by himself, during an afternoon. In 1948 Harry S. Truman made a surprise visit to the compartment of Alice Dunnigan, who, typewriter across her lap, was writing her story for the black press. He had heard about the trouble she had while walking down the red carpet with the rest of the White House press corps in Cheyenne, Wyo. Military officers did not recognize this black woman as belonging to the elite group and tried to take her out of the line. The president assured her that she should let him know if something like that ever happened again.

It was an amazing moment for Dunnigan (1906-1983), the Washington, D.C., correspondent for the Associated Negro Press. All of her hard work and personal sacrifice was paying off. She was becoming a political insider in a Jim Crow country where most black women were working as domestics or schoolteachers. She wrote stories from Capitol Hill and the White House that were delivered via mail to hundreds of weekly Negro newspapers, as they were known then.

Dunnigan was the root of a very strong journalistic tree. She was followed by, and later partnered with, the Chicago Defender’s Ethel Payne (1911-1991), whose journalistic, activist and political careers in Chicago and Washington loomed so long and so large in 20th-century black American history that her stories (from working for A. Philip Randolph to meeting Winnie Mandela and her husband) really seem almost like fiction—virtually impossible for just one black woman to have experienced.

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Source: The Root | 

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