Trailblazers at the White House: Honoring Alice Dunnigan and Ethel Payne, the Pioneering Black Women of the Press Corps

Trailblazing Journalists

Alice Dunnigan and Ethel Payne, the first Black women in the White House press corps, were recently honored for their pioneering journalism careers​​​​.

Recognition at the White House

A new lectern in the White House briefing room was named for Dunnigan and Payne, symbolizing the importance of their contributions to journalism and democracy​​.

Legacy and Influence

April Ryan, a senior White House correspondent, highlighted the significance of this honor, emphasizing the unique and crucial perspective these women brought to journalism​​.

Challenges Overcome

Both Dunnigan and Payne faced significant racial and gender barriers, often being ignored or challenged by officials and colleagues due to their race and gender​​​​.

Journalistic Courage

Dunnigan, remembered for her boldness, famously published a story on President Truman discussing civil rights, despite pressure from her peers not to​​.

Pathbreaking Questions

Payne made history with her questions about civil rights, notably asking President Eisenhower about segregation, which led to her being shunned by the White House​​.

Dunnigan’s Early Career

Before her White House days, Dunnigan worked as a teacher and wrote about Black contributions to Kentucky's history, showing her early commitment to highlighting African American stories​​.

Statue Honor

A life-sized statue of Alice Dunnigan was erected at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., further commemorating her impact and legacy​​.

Post-Journalism Contributions

After their journalism careers, both Dunnigan and Payne continued to influence public policy and civil rights, with Dunnigan working with presidential committees for youth and people of color​​.

Lifetime Achievement Awards

The White House Correspondents' Association honored Dunnigan and Payne with the inaugural Dunnigan-Payne Prize for Lifetime Career Achievement, acknowledging their groundbreaking work​​​​.