Alice Allison Dunnigan

Historical Marker #1960 in Russellville notes the accomplishments of civil rights activist and author Alice Allison Dunnigan.

A love of learning and a desire for self-improvement are important motivating factors in successful peoples' lives. Those factors often find expression in writing. Such was the case with Alice Dunnigan.

Dunnigan was born in 1906 in Logan County, Kentucky. Her grandparents had been slaves. She likely obtained her strong work ethic from stories about her grandparents and from her father, a sharecropper, and her mother, a washwoman. Her desire to write seemed to have come naturally. When still a girl, she wrote pieces for the "Owensboro Enterprise," a black newspaper. After graduating from Knob City High School, she attended Kentucky Normal and Industrial Institute in Frankfort (now Kentucky State University) and trained to be a teacher. She taught for a time in local schools, but her true desire was to write.

She found outlets for her passion with black newspapers in Kentucky including the "Louisville Defender." When she moved to Washington D.C. to take a job with the U.S. Department of Labor, however, her opportunities increased. In Washington, she became a reporter for the Associated Negro Press and was the first black woman elected to the Women’s National Press Club. She once stated, "Race and sex were twin strikes against me. I’m not sure which was the hardest to break down."

Dunnigan covered the 1948 presidential campaign of Harry Truman and wrote extensively about the early civil rights efforts to desegregate and provide equal opportunity for businesses in Washington, D.C. In the 1960s, Dunnigan served on the President's Committee on Equal Opportunity under presidents Kennedy and Johnson. She published her autobiography, "A Black Woman’s Experience: From Schoolhouse to White House," in 1974, and followed with "The Fascinating Story of Black Kentuckians," in 1982. That year she was also inducted into the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame.

Alice Dunnigan died in 1983, but the story of her rise from humble beginnings to great accomplishments has served as an inspiration for later generations.