tv African American Journalist Alice Allison Dunnigan CSPAN August 27, 2021 9:02pm-10:08pm EDT
granddaughter talk about her. it is presented by the truman library institute. >> good evening, ladies and gentlemen. welcome to truman presidential library and museum. i'm the director here. it is a pleasure to welcome you all out. appreciate you being here to enjoy this program and celebrate an important legacy with us. we are in the legacy business. when we celebrate harry truman's legacy, what we find out is we end up celebrating a lot of other legacies as well. i think that speaks volumes will who harry truman was. i want to begin by thanking some folks tonight. i want to thank the truman library institute, of course, who sponsor so much of what we do. they are our non-profit partner. we are indebted to them for all
the great things we do. for bringing this statue of alice dunnigan to the library and for helping us have this program here tonight. we are gathered here tonight to celebrate the life of a pioneering reporter who was the first african-american female journalist with white house press corps credentials. that's very significant. it happened during the truman administration. to tell her story, i would like to introduce tonight's panelists. we will have three different speakers, who will share particular perspective on miss dunnigan. and then they will take questions from you. nancy dawson, who will provide with us the historical context of ms. dunnigan's landmark achievement. professor and director of an african-american studies program. her career includes full time faculty positions at southern illinois university in car banville, and us a on the pace
state university. she has contributed to various and many scholarly jurisprudences. early in her career, dr. dawson was a journalist at the kansas city call and the kansas state globe newspapers. in this capacity -- it was in that capacity that she wrote and first took interest in the black press. so that led to her interest in tonight's topic. next we will have soyaya dunnigan brandon. she is the youngest grandchild of allison dunnigan. she's an educaor arc journalist and freelance writer. she currently worked in the durham public school system where she finds joy in helping others to see their unique stories and equips them to authenticate their written voice. that's soraya dunnigan brandon.
finally, amanda matthews, professor sculptor and ceo of foundry and custom metal fabrication. she is the stuntor responsible for what you saw out in the lobby earlier. her work represents many iterations of the philosophy that we are all born from the same stars, sculpted from the same source, and contain the same life. she is also the founder and president of the board of directors of artemis initiative that seeks to elevate the voice of those who had -- she shared with me on the way here she came through the atlanta airport where she just completed a public art project on the life of representative congressman john lewis. what a thrill it was for her and her husband to get to work on that project. welcome amanda and the rest of the panel.
[ applause ] >> good evening, everyone. tonight we come to you to remember alice allison dunnigan, a journalist, author, a civil rights leader, a one of a kind woman. and i know personally i'm so delighted to be here this evening. because there is so much that we can talk about in terms of alice dunnigan, i'm going to narrow my points down to just three. you know, i was a professor, so you know i like to talk. students always tell me, narrow it down. i am going to narrow it down to three. one, dunnigan, within the context of importance and admission of what we call the negro press. i will use that word because that's the word from the time. negro press. secondly, dunnigan on the presidential whistle stop tour. and lastly, something about dunnigan's legacy today. alice allison dunnigan is from
kentucky, a place called russelville, where i reside. although i was a professor black american studies, many of you in the audience know me from the kansas city area. i have been into african-american studies since i was a little child. i had never heard of alice dunnigan. so i was just floored when i realized and i saw this book. this is the original book, a black woman's experience from the schoolhouse to the white house. if you can find one of these now, you need to get it. this is the original book. this is how big it was before it was edited by carol booker. we will show that you book, too, a little bit later. i had never heard of this woman. but in retrospect. it wasn't uncommon that we had a lot of unsung african-american women, in many different fields. so -- but i was just intrigued. so those in russelville,
particularly the historic russelville organization, we got together and we started to figure out things that we could do to celebrate this woman. one of the things is that we had an exhibit at kentucky state university. it is an hbcu in kentucky. it received a lot of publicity and all this, so people started to talk about dunnigan again, after this book, which was written a long time ago. and it was just amazing, learning all the things about her. you know, dunnigan worked for not one, not two, not three -- but four united states presidents she covered more of the civil rights movement in terms for a reporter than anyone in her era. she was simply phenomenal. you know, now, thinking about the other day if a parent had come here, i was listening to the radio -- i am still the type who listens to the radio sometimes.
i was listening, and there was all this controversy about wikileaks and all these different things and the reporters were in a debate. one of the topics was about, well, what is journalism today? what is -- what is a reputable media source? i had to sit, and i had to think. because during the time in which dunnigan worked for the associated negro press, which was like a news agency, they were respected. and that's part of the problem. so can you imagine, it's 1947. now, dunnigan, a share cropper's daughter has done all of these things within russelville, struggled through all of this to get to d.c. now she's in washington, d.c., and she lands this job. and he wants to cover what's going on in the capitol -- on capitol hill. but she realizes something. well, where am i going to take
my notes? where am i going to -- where am i going to go? she goes into one of these press galleries. well, she realizes soon that she's not supposed to be there. and you are not supposed to take notes in the press gallery. you know. so she -- in the gallery for the people, the visitor's gallery is what i mean. she sees these reporters going into the press gallery. she follows them. but she realizes she's in a world that she's not welcome. this is a reporter's heaven. i think that's the word she uses in the book. there's typewriters, there is dictionaries, there is reference books, everything there. but she doesn't have access. so what happens, really, she starts this movement to get into this gallery so she can more effectively cover the stories. it literally takes a senate hearing at the congress to
change the rules for african-american reporters. now, although she was the one who really initiated it, in actuality, it was a male that was first. that is another set of gender politics involved in that. but finally, she gets these credentials subsequently getting credentials also in -- for the senate and the house. she gets the credential. and, you know, i -- her papers are at howard university. there are some at emory, too. i went into the ones at howard. when i went into the archives with another man from russelville, we were the first ones to ever look at the papers. and this was about eight or nine years ago. when i say she's an unsung heroine, that's true. in that's poerps is that press pass that she went on the whil stop tour with truman.
that original press pass still exists because it mant so much to her. because once she got those credentials, her life changed. she was able to do so many more different things. people all over the world recognized her, as a -- you know, as a wonderful journalist. she's paving the way for all kinds of women, all kinds of african-american -- all kinds of ethnic minorities all over the world. so she wants to get into this whistle stop tour. this was, remember, 1947 she is receiving these credentials. this is 1948, i want to be on the whistle stop tour with president truman. what happens? she thought it was going to be a struggle but in actuality, truman's press secretary says, okay. remember, there had never been any african-americans on these tours. so he said. okay, there was one catch. it cost $1,000.
so, you can imagine how much, you know, $1,000 at that time -- that's a lot now, if someone said give me $1,000 for the trip. you can man what's going on in 1948, when she's trying to get this. she -- one of the things that dunnigan was so good at was being able to network with different people to get things. although she was a share cropper's daughter, didn't have a lot of resources, she always was able to get them. she starts to go through her networks of women's groups, networks of different politicians, on and on and on until finally someone loans her enough money to go. it actually wasn't a full $1,000. i think it was like $800. she use this is money in order to go on this tour. that itself was an -- experience. why does she want to go? one, because she wanted more -- more african-americans to get
involved with negro vote for truman. that was one. two, she wanted to be a ground breaking journalist, black journalist, on this trip. three, it was her travel desire. she wanted to travel. she wanted to gain experience as a reporter. most importantly, she knew it was important for the civil rights movement. you have got to the remember n the 1940s, politicians weren't discussing civil rights, even though it was a major undercurrent issue, it was not something people were talking about. people were not coming to the forefront saying, you know, we are for civil rights. but we know, looking at truman's entourage, that, indeed, it was very diverse. it was two african-american men, it was international people. it was another woman. there was dunnigan and another white woman that was on the tour. he had a very diverse group that went around on this.
a couple other things i think that's important. it was some incidence that occurred. one, when you are talking about newspaper journalism in general, you know, there's what we call an angle, how to get your angle. so the black press was looking for that angle that was associated with issues around african-americans. you know, so she's on this tour. she's trying to find an angle. it was in -- i think it was in montana that -- it was late at night, and a group of students came up to the train, this whistle stop train, which was a west coast kind of tour. someone shouted "what about civil rights". dunnigan jumps on it and gets the story, the angle. some of the other reporters who were there with her were not happy that she was the first one to be able to jump up on that. but she did.
i just want to read you what -- a little quote from that. it says -- this is what the president said. the president quickly responded, "i'll say that civil rights is owe old as the stulgs of the united states and as new as the democratic platform of 1944". he then indicated it would be renewed in the 1948 platform. she jumps on that, writes the story saying that, because he was in his pajamas when he came out to speak. pajama-clad president speaks on civil rights, or something to that nature. she was able to get that. she got that angle. that's one of the things dunnigan was good at. she was able to get that story, write it no matter what. that was interesting. the other thing on the tour that was so interesting is that when she was in cheyenne, wyoming, they -- many times -- see, many times dunnigan -- remember, she didn't have quite enough money. so she would have to figure out
ways around, you know, eating scarce meals, whatever it took to do this. and the porters, the pullman occur porters, were are normally african-american men, they refused to take tips from her. they would help her get food, whatever it was necessary for this. anyway, when they got to wyoming, they were following the president in the -- motorcade, by foot, the reporters. and one of the guards came out from there and said to her, you know, get back behind the ropes. get back behind the ropes. and it was a reporter from -- last name lacy, lacy reynolds, i think that's his name. he comes out and he says, she has a reporter's badge. she's with the president. you know, because they shoved her. and so as a result of that, she was able to make a life long
friendship with him. and a day or so later, the president actually came to her door and told her, you know, if you have any problems, let me know. that was a reassurance for her. it gave her a lot of confidence. it let her know, you know, she was safe and sound on this trip. auction imagine, she was the only african-american, woman, going to these different places, and places that were predominantly white. you know, she was a trail blazer. so you can imagine how that could feel. because she was a very strong woman. because that could make you feel a little bit insecure to be doing this. so, you know, that was another thing. that's why when i talk once again about that press pass that's in howard university, why it means so much. and if you look at the original, her old original book, that's what the cover is, it's press passes from all over, different places and spaces, because each of those passes that she was able to receive was just one
more level, one more step towards fulfilling her dreams and aspirations. so, lastly, because i don't want to take too much time because you all can ask a lot of questions, dunnigan's legacy, and what it means today. you know, we have now women, african-american women in all aspects of the media. and we have dunnigan to thank for that. you know, we have women like dunnigan to thank for some of the programs that was initiated under some of these presidents where she serves on these committees. even i will say i have to be thankful because in the book, her original book, she talks about meeting none other than kansas city's lucille blueford. because on the way back, truman stops and he shakes hands with lucille blueford. for those of you who do not know? does everybody know who lucille
is? the edit of the kansas city call newspaper, pattern paper, right here, was one of the strongest in the united states. i happened to have worked with that reross, who was her colleague, who was the first black woman to attend university of kansas school of journalism. i can remember working with these women. i see somebody nodding your head in the audience because you remember i did this. you know, i can remember working with these women. and i would remember the stories that they would tell me about the days, the press days and the struggles that they had. none of these women had a lot of money. in fact therm humble. i think that's one of the things we learn from dunnigan, about her humility, her steadfastness, despite all the doors slamming, people telling her, no, you don't belong here, she knew she did. and she kept going. and lastly, i think most important is she left her legacy
through her writing. writing is fighting. and we did a quote with the students at russelville school because they didn't know about her. she started to have lessons in kentucky the teach people about alice dunnigan. and one of the students coined a phrase, you know, she says she used her pen as her weapon. and i think if anything you take away in looking at this today, on our discussion, that's what dunnigan did. she used her pen as a weapon. and she was able to do a lot with that pen. thank you very much. [ applause ] >> i would like to talk about alice allison dunnigan from a personal perspective. one of the things i want you to know is that she was a family -- very family oriented woman.
and family was important to her. going -- we have lots of events over the hold, birthdays, celebrations, that kinds of thing. i always called it the wall of fame because there were pictures of her shaking so many dignitaries' hands, presidents, and so on and so forth, and so many citations and awards and things on that wall. and i don't think when you -- every time you go, you see something that you didn't see before. it was just so intriguing. that was very -- i enjoyed going to her house. it was just so -- she was just a warm, very warm person. but what i enjoyed most about, even with her being family oriented, she was a great story teller. just likemer writing, really, i
think she uses such good vocabulary. sneeze so descriptive in her writing and she would tell the stories of what happened and she would bring to it life. i would always say grandma, you are so adventurous because really, the average person, i would think, i couldn't have done that. you sat through that? or he said that? but what i got from all of her story telling is, if i could just recapture much of what you said, she was very, very and she did not give up. one of the life long lessons that i have, and i wrote here that -- what my grandmother taught me is that when life deals you lemons, you make lemonade. and what i learned from my grandmother, it was her motivations, her desires, her dreams, her hopes, those were the sweeteners that made the lemonade what it was.
if you -- with the lemon, to squeeze out that lemon, to get that pulp out, that was the bitter truth. that is what she dealt with. but her personality, and she was so warm -- her personality is what, what made it not just, really not bittersweet, but made it sweet. and so that was one thing that she taught me. unlike the other grand children, i was a journalism major. so when i was 18, 19, 20, for my grandmother, our relationship was -- became a professional type of a relationship. and that's something that i hold -- because i talk about it sometimes, and my siblings will say, see, i don't share that. that wasn't my experience. but it was nothing for me to be
walking across campus and look up and, that's my grandmother, and i'mnd staing behind her, mother alice. i would catch up with her, we would chat for a minute, oh, what are you doing here? she was attending something, some program, you know, doing something. but from that, what she taught me was that you have to be consistent, and you have to be motivated. but you have to get involved in your community. and i think as a young student, that taught me you have to -- you have to go back into the community, and you have to leave something. that's what my grandmother taught me. one of the things that for me i believe that everybody has a voice. my job is to teach you to use it, teach you, give you the skills to use and it to get your points across. so my grandmother was very instrumental in that.
but as a student at howard, and this is another thing getting back to community involvement. we started a chapter of sigma delta kai, that was a society of professional journalists at the student collegiate level. my grandmother was instrumental in that, and very supportive. that meant the world to me, that wow, she would -- she's an old lady, and she's, you know, helping us. so that was great. and then the other thing that was significant and interesting for me was a lot of the professors that i had were her colleagues. so i learned very quickly just in my first, really, day of classes when my name -- you know, they are doing the role,
are you kin to alice dunnigan? yes, that's my grandmother. i didn't have sense enough -- i say sense enough because when you are young you just don't know the impact that people have. i knew i had seen her on meet the press. i know, like i said, she had the wall of fame and she had been so many places and had collectibles in the house and all. but i just didn't understand the impact. so when the professors, first of all, you know, oh, wow, they know my grandmother. you know, but they were her colleagues. and whenever i was doing my papers and things, i did a lot of talking with her. really, like i said, as a college student i met her as on a professional level. and i love that. i love that. because she -- i have the skill. she just helped me to tweak -- tweak things. one of the things that, like you said, she perspective.
she was a great listener. but you don't listen and not come out with a perspective. how can we use this to -- for understanding, for learning, for later? how -- what impact will this have? so that was something that i got from her as well. and even in -- i was a students in the '70s. even then, she still -- she taught me to challenge the status quo. even then, they were journalists, yes. but not many. african-american journalists, yes, but not many she taught me to challenge the status quo. if it is in you, bring it out. and always -- whatever it is that you are doing, it's not for you, but it's for those behind. and that's really what i see with my grandmother. so she was a family oriented person. she was professional, of course.
and she taught me to be aware and involved. and basically, she taught me, even in all that you do, tell the whole story. tell the whole story. tell the good and the bad. and she had a way of telling that in her story telling fashion, you know, that -- her use of vocabulary, and like i said, the descriptive words. you could -- you could feel that you were there. and that's a skill for any writer. and so that is what i got from her. so she was a great lady. very very much missed. i believe she was before her time in a lot of ways, particularly with the civil rights. and she was not a passive woman, but she was a gentle woman. i -- i think that probably of
all the children i am more like her -- of the grandchildren, i am probably more like her than any of them. so i'm grateful for that. [ applause ] >> i'm so happy to be here as part of this second whistle stop tour, is what we've been calling it, with the sculpture traveling all over. the sculpture was unvalds at the museum in washington, d.c., which we thought was very appropriate right now. the mother of a movement, that is what sonja ross said about alice dunnigan. sonja ross is an a.p. journalist. and she is the head of race and ethnicity for the "associated press." a teacher, an editor, a champion for civil rights and women.
how does one create a monument or a sculpture that is worthy, that celebrates the amazing life of someone like alice dunnigan? and the answer is, one doesn't. but many do. so when i was contacted about creating a sculpture honoring alice dunnigan, i decided to begin where she began, which was in russelville, kentucky. and i began by visiting the residence of russelville, kentucky. i thought i was going to sit down and meet with six or eight people, and we were going to discuss designs. and i think half of the town came. i'm not sure. dr. dawson was right in the front. i didn't know what i had just stepped into, but i will tell you that it was a very profound
experience for me. it truly did exemplify the phrase that the whole is more than the sum of its parts. because i witnessed in russelville, kentucky, a wildly diverse group of people who were all passionate about one thing. and they were passionate about honoring alice dunnigan's life, including her humble beginnings. but also, they wanted to include the indelible mark that she has left on this nation. so that is really where i started. i started by listening to the people who know her the best, like her family members, and dr. dawson, and michael morrow with the west kentucky african-american heritage museum. so now my challenge was somewhat
defined, and i had to take this information and create something with it. of course, i wanted to capture her likeness. but i also wanted to clearly place her on a national platform, and within the national conversations about equality. i felt like that -- that -- kind of like what dr. dawson said, so many people hadn't heard of her, and she -- she really was far ahead of her time. so i reviewed -- i began reviewing images of her. as a sculptor, we try to capture, you know, every detail. throughout various times in her life, trying to decide how old she would be, and at what level of success she would have, and how would we conveyer to the world and help tell her story? and i kept going back to the
iconic image of her standing on the capitol steps and holding the "washington post" newspaper, which i have to think was not an accident. i was told by another reporter, i think maybe with the "new york times." but i was told that the "washington post" didn't hire black reporters at the time. and so this image is a nod to her national accomplishments, but it's also an example of more steps she had to climb. it's an example that more work was needed to be done. so -- so that's what i kept coming back to. so then i looked at her posture, and her stance in that image. and her stance is strong and direct. her expression is calm, but it's also very confident.
you have to remember, she was a self-made, self-liberated woman. she should have looked calm and confident. i really wanted to capture that in the sculpture. in the photo, however, she is looking down the steps because the photographer is actually a few steps below her taking the shot. so without the photographer she was actually just looking down at the floor. that was never going to do because we wanted her to be looking up and out to show that she was a visionary. so that's something that i cosmos to change, to address a little bit and bring her stance up. so then i started with clothing. this might seem like a simple part of the sculpture, but alice dunnigan, she had an ongoing and challenging relationship with clothing and access to professional clothing, shoes and accessories throughout her life, and even into her career.
and it's a recurring topic in her book. actually, i would like to share a few of her own words about it. she says -- in the beginning, she says, the family thought it ridiculous the even think of buying clothes until it was absolutely necessary to hide nakedness or keep the body warm. i could no longer maintain the dignity of a school teacher without something more decent to wear. i broke the family tradition by buying three patterns of gingham on one visit to clarksville to make cotton dresses for school. the material cost no more than 29 or 36 cents per yard and it only takes three or four yards to make a dress, which i did myself, saving the cost of the staem tress. later, she has a whole section that's titled "just a pair of shoes". she says, i became active in the community but there was little to do besides church work. much to my liking, i became a sunday school teacher, which
helped me regain some of my self-respect. but once again, i had become practically thread bare. i had but one worn pair of shoes. finally one day i said in desperation i am not going to sunday or church service anymore until i get decent shoes. stay at home if you want to, i don't care, was her husband's curt reply. i don't care if you ever go anywhere again. this attitude, i know now, was meant to punish me for dragging him away from his beloved family. but it made me realize the only way i would ever get anywhere in life or do anything worthwhile would be to do it on my own. and then later, even after she's in washington, d.c., she says, i was still making difficult choices regarding living expenses. the cost of cabs around the city and trying to make a good showing contemporary fashion
trends created a challenge in the latter regard when hem lines dropped i had no cash for new clothes. one of my contemporaries called me later and told me that i paid a price for that when colleagues rejected to my receiving an award on grounds i wasn't representative of white women because i went to the white house in quote those old short dresses. and wearing neither a hat nor gloves i was cut deeply by these remarks because i had done many hours of volunteer work for the organization and wondered how its members could take such an attitude against someone who worked so hard to pull herself up by her own boot straps. finally, the whistle stop tour. she was trying to find the funds to go on the whistle stop tour.
she writes, i turned to my sorority, but it could offer no more than a ceremonial sendoff and a corsage, which i also turned down suggesting they give me something useful instead since i needed either money or clothes. they responded with a lovely blouse, which was not only beautiful, but practical and useful. so you can see that her clothing needed to convey who she was. for all of these reasons, it was important for me to capture the style and length of her dress, to give detail to her clothing as she is she had done in her own descriptions. to include her gloves, and include her pearls in the sculpture. to leave her hat floppy rather than more conservative, and to leave a few scuffs on her shoes to help tell her story. but what else needed to be
conveyed in the sculpture honoring her life? she had gained access to a very closed society in washington, d.c. but there was clearly more to do. i decided it was very important to include a replica of the "washington post." rather than just a generic newspaper in her hands. and this desire became quite a challenge. i contacted the "washington post." i contacted the people who handle their media. i asked them if i could secure a license to replicate a copy. they said, no, that can't be done. i went on line. i found anyone who had contact information. i began contacting anyone i could find at the "washington post." i called, i emailed. this went on for weeks. finally, i received a call back from someone at the "washington
post." and she said, to her knowledge, that the license i needed had never been granted to anyone. this was not something that the "washington post" did. however, i did not give up. i started searching for the director and the manager of communications. and as soon as i found out who that was, i began making calls again. and leaving messages. and nicely reminding them that i was going to keep calling until someone else called me back. and she did. shawnee george, the manager of communications, finally left a message on my phone, weeks later. i asked her to give me two minutes. ten minutes later, she said she would have her team on it. she would research this image, the year in which it was made, the headlines from that year that we thought were
appropriate. and her team sent me multiple headlines, multiple front pages of the "washington post" from 1947. i chose the one that is part of the statue, the above the fold set of headlines "because of its relationship to alice dunnigan's work in civil rights, and women's rights. and there was a lot mentioned on this particular newspaper about president and mrs. truman. and some of the headlines, which you can read, if you look closely, we replicated it in such a way that it is legible. that you can read the newspaper that's in her hands as part of the sculptture. one of the headlines says capitol termed graphic example of non-democracy. the nation's capitol was label a graphic illustration of a failure of democracy by the president's committee on civil rights. the next one says, need for guarantee of equal rights to all
is emphasized in report to truman. the president's committee on civil rights yesterday called on anything to take immediate and bold action to wipe out segregation and discrimination from the american way of life. this was october, 1947. another one says, job of nation's first lady is sized up by mrs. truman, and parenthetically, it says, she likes, independence, missouri. and then another one, which i thought was pretty bold, said ms. kelams urges polygamy or job equality for women. so these stories, and the "washington post" needed to become part of the story of alice dunnigan and her life and contributions. we should never forget that she was an african-american woman. she once famously said, race and
sex were twin strikes against me. i'm not sure which was the hardest to break down. history honors visionaries, great thinkers, great writers, great leaders of social change. but far too often history has edited out many of the contributions of women and minorities from its credits. alice dunnigan fits into all of these categories. she was a great thinker. she was a great writer and journalist. and she used these skills to become a great leader of social change. advocating for women's rights and civil rights during an especially challenging time in our nation's history. her monument is a symbol. it's a symbol that tells a more complete social history in the
united states public monuments like this can inform us of our history. but they also point way to our future. alice dunnigan envisioned a future of equality. and she dedicated her life to this vision. i believe that it is time for her to take her place in history as a visionary, as the mother of a movement. thank you. [ applause ] >> we have time for a few questions if anyone would like to step to the microphone.
>> where will be the ultimate home of your sculpture? >> the permanent installation will be in russelville, kentucky. and it will become part of the civil rights park, which is part of the west kentucky african-american heritage museum. dr. dawson might have more information about that. but we have more stops to make before that. it will be permanently installed and unveiled i think august 2nd of this year. >> right across the street from my house by the way. i will be a permanent guardian. >> honestly, i think she deserves to be in washington, d.c. this is not something i have been public about in the past but the museum on pennsylvania avenue in washington, d.c. had their single biggest day ever
the day after she was unveiled there. we can't take all the credit for that, but we hope it made a difference. i think her voice and likeness and her story need to be part of the washington, d.c. landscape. thank you. >> i would like to show the quilt that the students made in the school. i think this is in the russelville independence school. and we was there working with them for, like, two weeks. they read the edited volume of the book. and it was an inspiration to a lot of the young women. this is what we did in conjunction with the students at
russel ville independent school. with the art school. i am a quilter. i got my guilt roots from kansas, and kansas and missouri. so -- it is interesting, because dunnigan, i was reading, she actually took sewing. do you remember anything about that? was she a good seamstress? >> she sewed her own dresses. >> has that connection, too. she was a all-around woman. cooked, sewed, and run the country headlines. any other questions? i'm curious to know, did people know before now, did you know anything about her? show of hands, how many people knew about alice dunnigan before you heard about this event at the truman library. how many? one, two, three.
>> three. >> i would say she's business in my hometown, clarksville, and i had never heard about her and i consider myself a historian. so i am proud to know -- [ indiscernible ] . and i plan to make sure everybody in parkville will be there. we owe her a lot. >> part of what i heard from the citizens of roquoville was a desire to introduce or reintroduce her to the nation as part of this process. and so the opportunity at the museum was incredible. my daughters, who are, you know, more technically savvy than i am, they -- they were kinds of following things on line. and there was a moment right about the time she was unveiled in washington, d.c. where over
300 cities in the united states had sent out press information about this. and she was covered in the "washington post" and in the "new york times" and in the bbc in england, in africa, and germany. so we are -- we had no idea that this would happen. but part of the monument to her was to tell her story to the nation, a nation who needs to know who she is. because she was way ahead -- you know, when you think of the civil rights movement, what is the decade that you associate that with? >> the '60s. >> yeah. she was 20 years -- 20 years ahead of that. and so she broke barriers and just -- i mean, to say a trail blazer almost isn't even a strong enough word. such a visionary, so ahead of
her time. and at the museum, i remember saying she knew her place. and it wasn't where everybody else thought it was. so she deserves to be a household name. she deserves to be known for what she has provided for all of us. we stand on her shoulders. >> i think it's important, also, to note that she never forgot kentucky. she never forgot russelville, this small town. for those who don't know, russelville is about 1:15 from nashville and two hours from louisville, kentucky. but she never forgot it. she would go back and forth. she would even do civil rights kind of things in russelville. >> oh, yeah. >> that's humility. when you talked about always working with her community, always making the place that you are a better place. that was alice dunnigan. and everybody -- you know, there's a lot of these other press women and unsung people.
but i say kansas city has lucille blewford. it has marie ross. there is a lot of these women around the world and their stories need to be told. we all have, also, stories about individual families. we have people who stood the test of time and did things. tell your stories. see, because dunnigan left this footprint. because if she didn't do this, we couldn't be here today. she left it. so those of us who were out investigating, looking for the clues, and we found her. we now, years later, we are here telling the story. i think we all have a obligation to do that. >> [ inaudible ]. >> dr., dawson, you talked about two of her books. >> right. >> one was the original.
and then there is another. is it possible to get the original today? >> it's a little difficult to find. it's not in print anymore. this is the one -- carol booker did an excellent job of editing. this is how big the first book is. in this first book she leaves all the footprints -- i mean a lot of details. that's why i looked and found just the other day, lucille blueford. just countless details. >> there is another book she wrote. she wasn't only interested in telling her story. but she wrote a book about black kentuckians. >> right. >> right. >> fascinating story. >> blacks in kentucky. >> she was always teaching. >> that book is out of print. we have been working, we are talking now with the family. these are some of the things we are talking about, how to release this one again. we were in lexington recently.
that came up. do we want to make it -- update it to talk about some others. places like kentucky, many times people don't think about african-american history. i am from kansas. people don't think about black people in kansas. i think it is time for some up -- some new thing to come about. that old book needs to be a new book. >> let me know. >> and this information, as i said earlier, it tells a more complete history of the united states. it tells a more complete social history. and these are the things that have been left out of some of the credits of history. so that is -- and she was doing it. she was teaching about other people way back when she was a teacher before she ever went to washington, d.c. she was teaching the children about other african-americans and kentuckians who had done
great things who they didn't know about. the best way we can honor her, i think, is to do the time. >> uh-huh. >> yes. i agree. ? my question is was she denied access into the press area because she was a female? black? or was she just not a member of the club, so to speak? >> because those black organizations were not credentialed. okay? so that's the big picture. they didn't -- see, it was only certain media outlets that were considered credentials to be even part of this. and so the black press wasn't. so, really, your answer is both of those. because the black press wasn't allowed to do that. the black press was on the -- it was popular among the people so like i said, kansas had a big paper, chicago, baltimore. you know, they had them. and the people within the black community understood and knew.
but, you know, the white community was not really interested in most of these issues related to african-americans. so, you know, that's why what she did turned so much, and made such a big difference in the history. by just that small thing. imagine, you are write being the injustices of people, but simultaneously, you are being mistreated. i know what he i was doing some research on marie ross, what was the kansas side of the kansas city column. i saw pictures she had give me when she was covering some stories. the black press had to stand behind a line. there were lines, like a rope. and black reporters stood behind the rope. so there were all kinds of discriminatory activities that occurred between the white press and the black one and white reporters and black reporters that we don't think about because it's -- you know, you
just don't -- you know, segregation was part of every aspect of society. but sometimes we don't think about those sophisticated nuances. >> thank you. >> uh-huh. >> we talk about her being a trail blazer. it is easy to talk about all the great things in that work. but i know there was a lot of personal sacrifice on her part to be able to be in that. in 1947 i am curious, what did her town think of her at the time? what did her family think of her at the time? what kind of a personal toll did it take in order to carry such an important mission forward. >> the town -- that's why she went to d.c. she had difficulty in the town. because she was organizing people in the town. that's why she had to find some other place, to survive. >> yeah. >> i mean, there were constant
obstacles. financial, obstacles in terms of how she was received by her own boss. when you read the book you will see about the associated negro press -- the head. when she said she wanted to go on the whistle stop tour he said, well that's not something women should do. so race, gender discrimination -- it was ongoing. i personally identified with her. because it's just -- you know, all the things that she had to go through. you know, early in life, she, you know worked with the cc camp, the civilian conservation camp and clean cemeteries. she was a maid at one period, a cook, a laundress. this was a real woman. she didn't have a silver spoon. she was constantly battling the
odds. she had to pawn her watch. this is a great book to read. >> it really is. >> she had to pawn her watch sometimes to make it flew the weekend. and when she had to. tre, she had to come up with that money. as lacy hughes said it was no crystal -- by any stretch of the imagination. the three of us sitting here, we have -- you have got a personal thing but she's like my grandma, too. i feel like i identify with her. i have given this facebook to many other women, white, black, across the board, and they feel the same way. because there's a lot of discussion in the book about her relationship with her man who, you know, had problems with this very strong woman. you know, that was an issue. so there was a lot of things. >> she really gives life to the stories and her experiences. she's so incredibly descriptive
about -- and that's why i wanted to read some of the passages from the book, about just trying to determine how to render her clothing in this sculpture, because this came up over and over. and she gives such a nuance and character and life to how she felt about these things, and why she thought they were happening, and how she intended to overcome them. which really -- i mean, this book, it is a very realistic look at what she went through, but it's also uplifting because this is a woman who never gave up and she had a lot of opportunity to throw in the towel. >> what's the name of that book? >> alone atop the hill. >> that's the edited version. you would be lucky the find one of these. >> this one was edited by carol mccabe booker, from the original
version, custom-- which is over 600 pages long. >> if you can find one of these, keep it. it is a treasure now. >> i don't think either one of you addressed her educational background. was she a self-taught journalist? did she have a journalism degree or. >> well, she -- first of all, she went to ken condition state university in the beginning, which was -- kentucky was a normal school. she started with that. she takes classes throughout working. she was working as a teacher, working as a journalist, she took classes at howard, tennessee state at one period. she took classes at one of the technical schools in maduka. she was one of those -- she was a life learner. she was always trying to learn. i was reading a passage where
she talks about how she took -- because she figured one day she would have to have it. she was a life learner. she always took classes here and there to attain education. remember, in her time, should couldn't go to school but mostly to hbcus. oh, was there another question? one more thing which i didn't read and custom i think is important. it was an interview done about why -- what does she think about getting these press credentials. this is what she says. she says, open the doors of the white house. the congressional press galleries and the state department, show the definite recognition of the fact that negro americans are not seconds-class citizens serving only second-hand news. it is important to get pertinent facts to the minority groups
firsthand and interpret them in the light of their full context. it makes it possible for me to provide the service to the associated negro press members. this is something -- she took great pride in this, in what she was doing. great pride. >> we want to thank our panel for just an excellent discussion. [ applause ] i want to thank all of you for being here tonight as well, c-span for the coverage. we hope you will come and join us again for another program. thanks, and have a good evening
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