Trailblazing African American journalist honored at Washington museum

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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) -- A trailblazing Kentuckian who broke barriers is in the spotlight tonight in the nation’s capital. Our Alana Austin shares the life and legacy of Alice Allison Dunnigan.

Friday was a homecoming of sorts for Dunnigan and a big family reunion for those who knew and loved her.

“I couldn’t really control my emotions. I was going to try to keep it together but this has been a long time coming," said Penny Allison Lockhart, Dunnigan's great niece.

“I just pray we can be like her," exclaimed Soraya Dunnigan Brandon, Dunnigan's granddaughter.

Dunnigan spent years in the nation’s capital telling other people’s stories, now Lexington, Ky. sculptor Amanda Matthews says it’s Dunnigan’s turn to have her story told.

“She absolutely had persistence and grit and drive. She overcame so many obstacles," said Matthews, who also runs the Prometheus Bronze Foundry.

On Friday, the Newseum of Washington, DC unveiled this statue, honoring the pioneering work of Dunnigan. She’s remembered as the first African American female reporter to cover the White House, Congress and the Supreme Court.

“I was always proud of her because the world was proud of her and we didn’t quite understand the jewel that we had until we got older," said Brandon.

Brandon - inspired to become a journalist and educator like her grandmother - remembers her beloved ‘Mother Alice’ as a soft-spoken, king lady with a fighter’s spirit.

“She definitely was I would say before her time, so to speak, because women sometimes have in history, had their place but she didn’t have that place," said Brandon.

Dunnigan’s family members say they honor her persistence and grace to barrel through the sexism and racism prevalent in the 1940’s.

"Today she would be very proud but what she would want to happen is that everybody in the journalism world could be treated equally - women, men, everyone because that’s what she fought for - that the news could be reported and reported well," said Lockhart.

This project is part of a community’s vision to feature more women and people of color like Dunnigan in memorials.

“She helped shape and change a nation. She came from very humble beginnings in a tiny town in Russellville, Kentucky, and made her way to our nation’s capital and made a difference," said Matthews.

The statue will be at the Newseum for a bit. It will then be on display at other colleges and universities around the nation, including the University of Kentucky. It will eventually end up back home in Russellville.

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