Black History Spotlight #5: Alice Allison Dunnigan

All this month, we’ve been shining a spotlight on prominent black history makers. From Frederick Douglass to Marsha P. Johnson, we’ve learned a few things about Americans who helped make this country great, and hope you did too. We’re closing out the month with Alice Allison Dunnigan, a black female reporter, whose beat was politics – primarily in the White House. Read on to see what life was like for a female journalist of color back in the day.


/1/ Teen Prodigy

Alice first bit the journalism bug at age 13, when she started writing for the Owensboro Enterprise, the local paper in her home state of Kentucky. Although the extent of her contribution was only one-sentence news items, the experience left her knowing she wanted to be a reporter.

/2/ History Has Its Eyes On You

AT the time, black kids were only allowed 10 years of education, but Alice Allison decided to go further and attended Kentucky State University, where she completed a teaching course. She used her degree to become a history teacher in the Todd County School System, which was still segregated. While teaching her black kids, she noticed most of them had no idea of the contributions African-Americans had made to the state, so she made it her goal to educate them. Alice Allison then made “Kentucky Fact Sheets”, and gave them to her students as supplements to the required text in class. In 1939, the papers were collected for publication, but due to the political climate, no publisher was willing to print them. But in 1982, Associated Publishers Inc. finally took the papers to press and made the sheets into a publication called The Fascinating Story of Black Kentuckians: Their Heritage and Tradition. Alice Allison was a teacher in Kentucky public schools from 1924 to 1942, but because she wasn’t exactly getting paid the big bucks, she still worked small jobs in the summer, like a housekeeper and washing tombstones in the white cemetery.

/3/ A Full Time Job

But when she ended her teaching tenure in 1942, it was because she took on a call for government workers in Washington, D.C. during World War II. While she worked in her federal government job, she took night classes at Howard University,and by 1946, she was offered a job writing for the Chicago Defender newspaper as a Washington correspondent. The black-owned publication never used “negro” or “black”, but rather used the phrase “The Race” in reference to African-Americans. However, the down side to this was that the editor of the Defender was unsure of her writing abilities strictly because she was a women, she he paid her much less than her male co-workers until she could prove her worth.

/4/ HBIC

In 1947, served as a writer for the Washington bureau of the Associated Negro Press. During her time there, she sought credentials to become a member of the Senate and House of Representatives press galleries, but it didn’t come without a fight. The government denied her requests, citing the fact she wasn’t writing for a daily newspaper (a requirement for reporters covering the Capitol), but rather a weekly publication. It took six months, but she was finally granted clearance and became the bureau chief of the Associated Negro Press for the next 14 years.

/5/ White House Correspondent Years

In addition to being the first black female member of the Senate and House press galleries, she made history yet again in 1948, when she was named a White House correspondent, and again was the first black female to ever hold that title. In fact, she was only one of three African-Americans, one of two women in the press corps, and the first black woman elected to the Women’s National Press Club.

Of course, Alice Allison’s milestones didn’t come without a price. Segregation was still instituted throughout most of her time in Washington – during President Eisenhower’s eight years in office, he went from not calling on her at all to asking her for her questions beforehand (something no one else had to do). She was barred from entering some venues to cover him, and even had to sit with servants to cover Senator Taft’s funeral. When John F. Kennedy took his place in the Oval Office, he was the exact opposite and welcomed questions from Alice Allison, who was known as a hard-hitting reporter.

/6/ Working With the President

Speaking of JFK, he named her the education consultant on the President’s Committee on Equal Employment Opportunity in 1961. In 1967, she became an associate editor with the President’s Commission on Youth Opportunity, but left in 1968 when Nixon and his Republican team took over the White House.

/7/ Back to the Books

Following her career in Washington, she decided to tell her story in an autobiography, and penned a book titled A Black Woman’s Experience: From Schoolhouse to White House, which was published in 1974. A detail not covered in her book – she received more than 50 journalism awards for her groundbreaking work.


Best of 2016: The Margaret Abbott Awards For Baffling Treatment Of Female Olympians

Welcome to Day 2 of our Best of 2016 (wherein we pretend good things happened in 2016). But seriously, on our very short list of great things about 2016, the summer Olympics are near the top. As always, we were inspired and amazed for two weeks and became mega-fans of athletes we hadn’t even heard of weeks before. But 2016 had to be 2016, so there was still some weird sexism stuff, because of course there is. Our reaction: the Margaret Abbott Awards, highlighting baffling treatment of female olympians (and named in honor of first female ‘medalist,’ Margaret Abbott. And yes, medalist is in quotes because they gave her a bowl instead).

The Margaret Abbott Awards For Baffling Treatment Of Female Olympians

(click on link for full post)

Dan ‘He’s Responsible’ Hicks

Longtime NBC commentator Dan Hicks hit headlines after the 400m individual medley in swimming, when Hungarian swimmer Katinka Hosszu won the gold but also shattered the previous world record. During the program, he noted that Katinka’s husband and coach, Shane Tusup is “the man responsible” for making his wife the swimming champion she is today. Viewers were quick to take note of Dan’s wording, because, homegirl just killed it in the pool, yet this dry dude on the sidelines is “responsible” for the gold medal? OK. Dan Hicks later clarified his comments, saying, “It is impossible to tell Katinka’s story accurately without giving appropriate credit to Shane, and that’s what I was trying to do.”

There’s also more of a backstory with this couple, because apparently Shane’s poolside enthusiasm can turn scary, with other swimmers noting his extreme anger, calling it “inappropriate” and “not OK”. But again, Dan Hicks has an interesting view on his hard love, “It’s been a little disturbing to some of the other swimmers who have observed it,” he said on-air, according to the AP. “But he has turned her into a tiger in the pool.”

Dan Hicks is awarded… The GOLDEN ABBIE

Perfect for: The blood, sweat, and tears of Katinka, Shane Tusup in mini-form to stay afloat for all eternity

“Female Michael Phelps”

Katie Ledecky, 19 years old,  won four gold medals and a silver in the 2016 Olympics. She set a world record for the 400-meter freestyle … then she broke it herself. She finished the 800-meter freestyle so quickly that she had 11 seconds to cool her heels before the silver medalist even reached the wall. All of this is enough for the Daily Mail to name Ledecky the “female Michael Phelps.” For its part, NBC commentator Rowdy Gaines remarked that “some people say she swims like a man” before telling us why that’s false. Few things here:

A.) “Some people say” is a tired vehicle for introducing opinions a journalist or commentator doesn’t want to own (see also: “some people say women aren’t funny” in any interview with a female comedian).

B.) “Some people” need to stop saying a woman does something “like a man” when she does it well. Clearly Katie Ledecky swims like a woman since she, you know, is one.

These Male Rita Skeeters are awarded… The SILVER ABBIE

Perfect for: Serving alphabet soup so they can figuratively eat their words.

Sh!t The Daily Mail Loves

Please tell me I’m not the only person who hate-reads The Daily Mail? There’s no need for me to do this. As an American, the news and gossip are irrelevant to me. As a writer, the nonsensical sentences, redundancy, and clichés make me cringe. As an educated lady, reading it is probably the worst thing I could do next to slut-shaming Susan B. Anthony even though we all know that Elizabeth Cady Stanton was the real ho-bag. And as a lawyer, the piss-poor analysis of high-profile cases makes me want to bulk-ship my bar exam study notes to the editors — or at least some Law & Order DVDs.

And yet… and yet. I can’t stop. It’s like eating Cheetos when I’m in a situation where someone has Cheetos. I don’t want to do it, but somehow, I’m compelled.

If you read the Daily Mail often enough, you’ll notice that the “news magazine” freaking loves the following things — and yes, all results are from the past 90 days alone:

Calling legs “pins”

  • Vanessa Hudgens reveals her fins (not pins) as she dresses up in shell bra for mermaid photoshoot with friend Kim Hidalgo
  • Grey matters: Alessandra Ambrosio flaunts her slim pins in ghostly paisley jeans alongside daughter Anja
  • From day to night! Karolina Kurkova sticks to super skinny jeans as she squeezes her slim pins into tight trousers twice in one day
  • Mad Men’s Christina Hendricks and Jessica Paré highlight their curves as January Jones flaunts her pins in a mini skirt at BAFTA event

…and literally 24 more where that came from

Telling us what people’s faces say

  • Is this the smile that says I’m back with Bieber? Selena Gomez beams amid rumours of yet another reconciliation
  • The thumbs-up that says we’re free! Kidnap victims Gina DeJesus and Amanda Berry finally return home after 10 years in captivity
  • Smile that says he’s on the mend: Prince Philip strides out… in his surgical stockings
  • The grin that says ‘I do’! 30 Rock’s Katrina Bowden and Ben Jorgensen exchange vows on a rainy New York day

Scare quotes

Things President Obama does that cost money

  • Obama under fire as he turns the G8 Summit in Ireland into a family trip ‘that costs U.S. taxpayers $5.2million for just two days abroad’
  • The moment First Lady Michelle Obama giggled like a schoolgirl as she got to meet her musical idols at lavish White House soul concert
  • Documents: Obama administration paid at least $2.5 MILLION for hotel rooms and rental cars during the 2012 G-20 meeting in Mexico

Gruesome tales of child neglect

Capitalization in article titles for EMPHASIS

Sarah Jessica Parker’s twin babies walking places

– Over the past three months, Sarah Jessica Parker’s Twin Babies (SJPTB, I call them) have used scooters, held cell phones, listened to stories, worn outfits, and looked different from each other, according to the DM. But most of all, they’ve walked places – and DM has been there every tiny, Mary Jane-clad step of the way.

When grown-ass women have sex with teenage boys

– I don’t think you understand. I gave up counting when I hit 20 female teachers who had sex with teenage students. There were still 9 pages of results to go. This was the past 90 days alone. Obviously this is a problem, but the degree of glee DM gets out of reporting these crimes – versus the one-paragraph mention of the over 90 rapes that were reported in ONE day during the riots in Egypt… well, y’all don’t want me to get started on what that says about the state of things. Just know that wherever a high school math teacher is pregnant with the child of her 17-year-old student, the Daily Mail will be there. I assume they have a Google alert set up. That, or a particularly gossipy teenager planted in each high school in North America.

People doing horrific things while on bath salts

The Garner-Afflecks

– I mean. I even know what Violet’s school uniform looks like.

Telling you why you’re fat

This month the reasons are: sadness, skim milk, caffeine, your job, food labelling, the fact that your obese mother didn’t have weight loss surgery before you were born, juice, meat, staying with your grandparents as a child, chips, soda.

Twitter feuds

Duchess Kate alternately looking or not looking pregnant

– When that damn baby is born, Daily Mail is going to explode into a million Union Jack-printed pieces, like a British Kool-Aid man.

Animals who seem to have feelings

– Also, people having feelings about animals. A town in Texas threw a funeral for a beloved local stray dog, for instance. The article would have been bigger, but the dog wasn’t also friends with a baby monkey. The Daily Mail LOVES when non-monkey animals are friends with baby monkeys. So do I, though. So do I.

Photosets from Abandoned Places

I like looking at crumbling high schools and moldy teddy bears in Chernobyl and Detroit, and by God, so does the Daily Mail. Always – always – these are from some guy’s blog from 2006.

When women are “scary skinny”

– If you are female, and exist in public, and have a BMI below 18 or so, you run the risk of having the Daily Mail call you “scary skinny.” It’s just because they’re concerned.

When women “flaunt their curves”

– If you are female, and exist in public, and have a BMI above 18 or so, you run the risk of having the Daily Mail declare that you are “flaunting your curves,” which – don’t worry – just means “wearing an outfit” in Daily Mail-speak. Note that there’s no real line between scary skinny and big ol’ curve flaunters.


– Daily Mail fucking loves sinkholes. I don’t know why.