Cover image for Alone atop the hill : the autobiography of Alice Dunnigan, pioneer of the national Black press
Alone atop the hill : the autobiography of Alice Dunnigan, pioneer of the national Black press
Uniform Title:
Black woman's experience
Physical Description:
xvi, 223 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
General Note:
Revision of the author's A Black woman's experience : from school house to White House (1974).
"Alice Dunnigan (1906-1983) was the first African American woman to break the color and gender barriers of national journalism. During her time as a journalist, she reported for the Louisville Defender and Chicago Defender, and was a member of the Negro Associated Press. Dunnigan has been inducted into the Kentucky Hall of Fame for Journalism (1982) and for Human Rights (2010), and in 2013 was inducted into the National Association of Black Journalists Hall of Fame. [Her] original autobiography was self-published and quite long, thus failing to gain the wide readership it might have; Booker aims to make Dunnigan's story available once more and ... readable for a general audience"--


Material Type
Call Number
Item Available
Book 921 DUNNIGAN 1 1
Book 921 DUNNIGAN 1 1

On Order



In 1942 Alice Allison Dunnigan, a sharecropper's daughter from Kentucky, made her way to the nation's capital and a career in journalism that eventually led her to the White House. With Alone atop the Hill , Carol McCabe Booker has condensed Dunnigan's 1974 self-published autobiography to appeal to a general audience and has added scholarly annotations that provide historical context. Dunnigan's dynamic story reveals her importance to the fields of journalism, women's history, and the civil rights movement and creates a compelling portrait of a groundbreaking American.

Dunnigan recounts her formative years in rural Kentucky as she struggled for a living, telling bluntly and simply what life was like in a Border State in the first half of the twentieth century. Later she takes readers to Washington, D.C., where we see her rise from a typist during World War II to a reporter. Ultimately she would become the first black female reporter accredited to the White House; authorized to travel with a U.S. president; credentialed by the House and Senate Press Galleries; accredited to the Department of State and the Supreme Court; voted into the White House Newswomen's Association and the Women's National Press Club; and recognized as a Washington sports reporter.

A contemporary of Helen Thomas and a forerunner of Ethel Payne, Dunnigan traveled with President Truman on his coast-to-coast, whistle-stop tour; was the first reporter to query President Eisenhower about civil rights; and provided front-page coverage for more than one hundred black newspapers of virtually every race issue before the Congress, the federal courts, and the presidential administration. Here she provides an uninhibited, unembellished, and unvarnished look at the terrain, the players, and the politics in a roughand- tumble national capital struggling to make its way through a nascent, postwar racial revolution.

Author Notes

CAROL McCABE BOOKER is a former journalist and Washington, D.C., attorney. She is coauthor with her husband, journalist Simeon Booker, of the highly acclaimed history Shocking the Conscience: A Reporter's Account of the Civil Rights Movement .

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

*Starred Review* Dunnigan (1906-83) tells readers that she was born in rural Kentucky, the great-granddaughter of a white slave owner and the determined daughter of an exceptionally industrious sharecropper father and washerwoman mother. A top student in spite of her grueling farm chores, iron-willed Dunnigan began writing local news stories as a teenager. She earned a teacher's certificate in record time; took charge, at 18, of a dilapidated one-room schoolhouse; and wrote a boldly feminist column. She also freed herself from two disastrously exploitative marriages to stay true to her calling. Once in Washington, D.C., Dunnigan served as bureau chief for the Associated Negro Press, prevailing over vicious opposition to become the first African American woman to secure press credentials for the Capitol and the White House. Dunnigan subsequently accompanied President Truman on a whistle-stop tour through 18 western states (and does she ever have stories to tell) and so enraged President Eisenhower with her probing questions about civil rights policy that he didn't call on her at press conferences for two years. Undaunted, Dunnigan covered landmark cases at the Supreme Court and fought zealously to become Washington's first and only woman sportswriter. Ultimately, Dunnigan muses, gender discrimination proved to be a far greater obstacle than racism and may well be the reason she was paid, throughout her entire stellar reporting career, so meagerly she had to routinely pawn her watch to have money for food. Dunnigan's indelible self-portrait affirms that while the media landscape has changed, along with some social attitudes and practices, discrimination is far from vanquished, and we still need dedicated and brave journalists to serve as clarion investigators, witnesses, and voices of conscience.--Seaman, Donna Copyright 2015 Booklist

Library Journal Review

Editor McCabe Booker (Shocking the Conscience) succeeds marvelously in revealing the voice and spirit of the groundbreaking mid-20th-century journalist Dunnigan (1906-83). This significantly trimmed version of the author's original 600-plus page autobiography, which she self-published in 1974, smartly splits its focus between Dunnigan's early years as a daughter, student, wife, and teacher in rural Kentucky and her hard-won second career triumphs as a writer, political reporter, and civil rights-conscious journalist. Particular highlights include Dunnigan's straightforward-yet-vivid recollections of family and friends during times of prewar poverty, and the relentless nature of her fight to gain credibility as an accredited White House reporter in the 1940s and 1950s. Readers who begin unfamiliar with Dunnigan's struggles and accomplishments will be utterly convinced of them by the book's end-although they may wonder at her story's slightly abrupt and unsatisfying ending, the result of some tough-but-fair editing choices by Booker. VERDICT This poignant, engaging true story beautifully supplements Dunnigan's 2013 induction in the National Association of Black Journalist's Hall of Fame. It is highly recommended for scholars and general readers interested in the history of journalism, especially the black press, women in journalism, and the national press corps.-Robin Chin Roemer, Univ. of Washington Lib., Seattle (c) Copyright 2015. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Forewordp. ix
EditorÆs Notep. xi
Prefacep. 1
Part I Those Early Years
Chapter 1 No Greater Thrillp. 5
Chapter 2 The Family Tree and Its Bittersweet Fruitp. 9
Chapter 3 Alone atop a Hillp. 15
Chapter 4 School Daysp. 25
Chapter 5 Where There's a Willp. 39
Chapter 6 The Job Huntp. 46
Chapter 7 The Ups and Downs of My First Jobp. 50
Chapter 8 A Plunge into the Sea of Matrimonyp. 58
Chapter 9 A Rugged Voyage Endsp. 66
Chapter 10 Moving Onp. 74
Chapter 11 Wading through the Depressionp. 79
Chapter 12 Seeking Identity, Experience, and Recognitionp. 90
Part II A Great New World
Chapter 13 Converging on Washingtonp. 103
Chapter 14 Breaking Down Race-and Gender-Barriersp. 107
Chapter 15 A Trip with the Presidentp. 116
Chapter 16 The Civil Rights Fights of the Fortiesp. 134
Chapter 17 Profiles of Injusticep. 143
Chapter 18 The President Proposes; the Congress Debatesp. 153
Chapter 19 Almost Pushing the Panic Buttonp. 163
Chapter 20 Freedom Fights of the Fiftiesp. 171
Chapter 21 Eisenhower's Piquep. 186
Epiloguep. 201
Acknowledgmentsp. 205
Notesp. 207
Indexp. 219