tv African American Journalist Alice Allison Dunnigan CSPAN August 27, 2021 8:58am-10:03am EDT
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. that happened during the truman administration. to tell her story, i would like to introduce tonight's panelists. we will have three speakers who will share a particular perspective on miss dunnigan and they will take questions from you at an appropriate point. first, dr. nancy dawson. she will provide us with the historical context of the landmark achievement. she worked more than 20 years in higher education as a professor and director of an african-american studies program. her career includes full-time faculty positions at southern illinois university and austin-pace state university. she's a published writer.
she edited the frederick douglass encyclopedia and has contributed to many journals. dr. dawson was a journalist at the kansas city "call" and "globe" newspapers. in this capacity, she wrote and first took interest in the black press. that led to her interest in tonight's topic. next we will have soria dunnigan. she's here to share some personal anecdotes about alice's remarkable life. she's an educator, journalist and freelance writer. she currently works 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. finally, we have amanda
matthews. she's a professional sculptor. she is responsible for what you saw out in the lobby earlier. her work represents many iteration of the philosophy we are born from the same star, sculpted from the same source. she's the president of the board of directors of artimus initiative that seeks to elevate the status of those who have had a lesser voice in history. her work is in many collections, including several museums, public parks, government buildings, airports and municipalities. she shared with me she came through the atlanta airport where she completed a public art project on the life of representative congressman john lewis. what a thrill that was for her and her husband to get to work on that project. please welcome amanda and the rest of the panel. [ applause ]
>> good evening, everyone. tonight we come to you to remember alice dunnigan, a journalist, author, civil rights leader, a one of a kind woman. i know personally, i'm so delighted to be here this evening. because there's so much that we can talk about in terms of alice dunnigan, i'm going to nail my points down to three. i was a professor, so you know i like to talk. students tell me, narrow it down. i will narrow it down to three. one, within the context of importance in the miss of what -- the mission of the negro press, secondly, the presidential whistle stop tour and lastly, something more about dunnigan's legacy today. she's from logan county,
kentucky, russellville, where i reside. i was a professor of african-american studies. many of you in the audience know me from the kansas city area. i've been into african-american studies since i was a child. i had never heard of alice dunnigan. i was 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." you can find one of these. this was the original book. this is how big it was before it was edited by carol booker. we will show you that book later. i had never heard of this woman. in retrospect, it wasn't uncommon that we have a lot of unsung african-american women in many different fields. but i was just intrigued. those in russellville,
particularly the historic russellville, we got together and started to figure out things to do to celebrate this woman. one of the things, we had an exhibit at kentucky state university. it received a lot of publicity. people started to talk about dunnigan after this book, which was written a long time ago. it was amazing learning all the things about her. she 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 just simply phenomenal. now, thinking about the other day in preparing to come here, i was listening to the radio. i listen to the radio sometimes. but i was listening.
it was all this controversy. the reporters were in a debate. one of the topics was about, what is journalism today? what is a reputable media source? i had to sit and i had to think. during the time in which dunnigan worked for the associated negro press, which was a news agency, they weren't respected. that's part of the problem. can you imagine -- it's 1947. a sharecropper's daughter. struggled to get to d.c. she's in washington, d.c. and she lands this job. she wants to cover what's going on in the -- on capitol hill. but she realizes something. where am i going to take my
notes? where am i going to -- where am i going to go? she goes into one of the press galleries. she realizes that she's not supposed to be there. you are not supposed to take notes in the press gallery. in the gallery for the people, the visitor's gallery. she sees reporters going into the press gallery. she follows them. she realizes she's in a world that she's not welcome. this is a reporter's heaven. that's the word she uses in the word. typewriters, dictionaries, reference books, everything there. she doesn't have access. what happens? she starts this movement to get into this gallery. she can more effectively cover the stories. it literally takes a senate
hearing at congress to change the rules for african-american reporters. although she was the one to initiate it, actually, it was a male that was first. that is another set of gender politics involved in that. finally, she gets these credentials. subsequently getting credentials also for the senate and the house. she gets the credentials. her papers are in howard university. some are in emory, too. by the way, when i went into the archives, we were the first ones to ever look at the papers. when i say she's unsung, it's true. in those papers is that press pass that she was -- she went on this whistle stop tour with truman.
that original press pack exists. it meant so much to her. once she got the credentials, her life changed. she was able to do so many more different things. people all over the world recognized her as a wonderful journalist. she's paving the way for all kinds of women, ethnic minorities all over the world. she wants to get into this whistle stop tour. remember, 1947, she's receiving credentials. this is 1948, i want to be on this whistle stop tour with president truman. what happens? she thought it was going to be a struggle. truman's press secretary says, okay. remember, there had never been any african-americans on these tours. he said okay. however, there was one catch. it cost $1,000. you can imagine how much $1,000
at that time -- that's a lot now if somebody says you need $1,000. you can imagine in 1948 when she's trying to get this. one of the things that dunnigan was so good at was able to network to get things. she was a sharecropper's daughter, she didn't have many resources, she always was able to get them. she starts to go through her networks of women's groups, networks of politicians, on and on until finally someone loans her enough money to go. i think it was $800. she uses this money in order to go on this tour. that was an experience. why does she want to go? one, because she wanted more african-americans to get involved with negro vote for
truman, one. two, she wanted to be a groundbreaking black journalist on this trip. three, it was her travel desire. she liked to travel. she wanted to gain experience as a reporter. most importantly, she knew it was important for the civil rights movement. you have to remember in the 1940s, politicians weren't discussing civil rights, even though it was a major issue. it was not something that people were talking about. people were not coming to the forefront saying, we're for civil rights. but we know looking at truman's entourage, it was international. he had a very diverse group that went around on this.
a couple other things that i think that's important. some incidents that occurred. one, when you talk about newspaper journalism in general, it's what we call an angle. how to get your angle. the black press was looking for that angle that was associated with issues around african-americans. she's on this tour. she's trying to find an angle. it was in -- i think it was montana that -- it was late at night. a group of students came up to the train which was a west coast kind of tour. they asked, what about civil rights? dunnigan jumps on it. she gets the story, the angle. some of the other reporters who were there with her were not happy that she was able to be the first one to jump up on that. but she did.
i want to read you a little quote from that. it says -- this is what the president said. the president quickly responded, i will say that civil rights is old as the constitution of the united states and it's new as the democratic platform of 1944. he then intimated that it would be renewed in the 1948 platform. she jumps on that, writes the story saying that -- he was in his pajamas when he came out to speak. pajama-clad president speaks on civil rights. she got that angle. that's one of the things she 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 -- many times dunnigan -- she didn't have quite enough money. so she would have to figure out
ways around eating scarce meals, whatever it took to do this. the porters, which are normally african-american, they refused to take tips from her. they would help her get food, whatever was necessary for this. anyway, when they got to wyoming, they were following the president motorcade by foot, the reporters. one of the guards came out from there and said to her, get back behind the ropes. get back behind the ropes. it was a reporter from -- lacy reynolds, he comes out and says, she has a reporter's badge, she's with the president. they shoved her. as a result of that, she was able to make a life long
friendship with him. a day or so later, the president actually came to her door and told her, if you have any problems, let me know. that was a reassurance for her. it gave her confidence. it let her know that she was safe and sound on this trip. you can imagine, she was the only african-american woman going to these different places. places that were predominantly white. she was a trailblazer. you can imagine how that could feel. because she was a very strong woman. that could make you feel a little bit insecure to be doing this. that was another thing. that's why when i talk about that press pass that's in howard university, why that means so much. if you look at the original book, that's what the cover is, press passes, from all over, different places and spaces. each of those passes that she was able to receive was just one
more level and one more step towards fulfilling her dreams and aspirations. lastly, because i don't want to take too much time, because you can ask a lot of questions, dunnigan's legacy and what it means today. we have now women -- african-american women in all aspects of the media. we have dunnigan to thank for that. we have women like her to thank for some of the programs that were initiated under some of the presidents when she served on the committees. even i will say, i have to be thankful. in the book, her original book, she talks about meeting lucille buford. on the way back, truman stops and he shakes hands with lucille. does everybody know who she is?
the editor of "the kansas city call," african-american paper right here. i happened to have worked with marie rawls, 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 their head because you remember i did this. i can remember working with these women. i 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. they were humble. that's one of the things i think that we learn also from dunnigan, about her humility, about her steadfastness, despite it all the doors slamming, people telling her, you don't belong here, she knew she did. she kept going. lastly, most important, is she left her legacy through her
writing. writing is fighting. we did a -- the students didn't know about her. we actually had lessons in kentucky to teach people about alice dunnigan. one student coined a phrase. she used her pen as a weapon. if anything you take away in looking at this on our discussion, that's what dunnigan did. she used her pen as a weapon. she was able to do a lot with that pen. thank you very much. [ applause ] >> i come to talk about alice from a personal perspective. one of the things i want you to know is that she was a family -- very family oriented woman.
family was important to her. as a kid going -- we had lots of events over the holidays and different times of the year, birthday celebrations, i called it the wall of fame, because there were pictures of her shaking so many dignitaries' hands, presidents and so on and so forth. so many citations and awards and things on that wall. i don't think -- every time you go, you would see something you didn't see before. it was so intriguing. that was very -- i enjoyed going to her house. she was just a warm -- very warm person. what i enjoyed most -- even with her being family oriented, she was a great storystoryteller. i could sit at her feet. just like her writing, i think
she uses such good vocabulary. she's so descriptive in her writing. the average person, i couldn't have done that. you sat through that? he said that? what i got from all of her storytelling is if i could recapture much of what you said, she was very, very tenacious. she did not give up. one of the life long lessons i have -- i wrote here that what my grandmother taught me, when life deals you lemons, you make lemonade. what i learned from my grandmother, her motivation, desires, dreams, hopes, those were the sweeteners that made the lemonade what it was.
with the lemon, just to squeeze out that lemon, get that pulp out, that was the bitter truth. that's what she dealt with. her personality, she was so warm, her personality is what made it not just -- really not bittersweet, but made it sweet. that was one thing she taught me. unlike the other grandchildren, i attended howard university school of journalism, school of communications. i was a journalism major. when i was 18, 19, 20, for my grandmother, our relationship was -- became a professional type of relationship. that's something that i hold. i talk about that sometimes and my siblings will say, i don't share that. that wasn't my experience.
it was nothing for me to be walking across campus and look up and that's my grandmother. mother alice. mother alice. i would catch up with her. we would chat. what are you doing here? she was attending something, some program, doing something. 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. i think as a young student that taught me, 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 everybody has a voice. my job is to teach you to use it, teach you -- give you the skills to use it and to get your points across. my grandmother was very
instrumental in that. as a student at howard -- this is another thing getting back to community involvement. we started a chapter of sigma delta chi. professional journalis at college level. my grandmother was instrumental in that and very supportive. that meant the world to me. she would -- she was an old lady and she's helping us. that was great. the other thing that was significant and interesting for me was a lot of the professors that i had were her colleagues. i learned very quickly just in my first day of classes when my name -- they are doing the role.
are you kin to alice dunnigan? yes. that's my grandmother. i didn't have sense enough -- when you are young, you don't know the impact people had. i knew i had seen her on "meet the press." she had the wall of fame. she had been so many places and had collectibles in the house and all. i just didn't understand the impact. when the professors -- first of all, wow, they know my grandmother. they were her colleagues. whenever i was doing my papers and things, i did a lot of talking with her. as a college student, i met her as -- on a professional level. i love that. i have the skill. she just helped me to tweak things. one of the things that -- like you said, perspective.
she was a great listener. you don't listen and not come out with a perspective. how can we use this to -- for understanding, for learning, for later? what impact will this have? that was something that i got from her as well. i was a student in the '70s. even then, we still -- she taught me to challenge the status quo. even then, women, they were journalists, but not many. african-american journalists, not many. she taught me to challenge the status quo. if it's in you, bring it out. whatever it is that you are doing, it's not for you, but it's for those behind. that's really what i see with my grandmother. so she was a family oriented person. she was professional, of course.
she taught me to be aware and involved. basically, she taught me, even in all that you do, tell the whole story. tell the whole story. tell the good and the bad. she had a way of telling that in her storytelling fashion that -- her use of vocabulary and the description. you could feel that you were there. that's a skill for any writer. that is what i got from her. 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. she was not a passive woman. but she was a gentle woman. i think that probably of all the
children, i'm more like her of the grandchildren. i'm probably more like her than any of them. i'm grateful for that. [ applause ] >> i'm so happy to be here as part of this second whistle stop tour is what we have been calling it with the sculpture traveling all over. the sculpture was unveiled 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. she's an a.p. journalist. she's the head of race and ethnicity for the associated press. that's what she said about alice dunnigan, who is a teacher, journalist, 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? the answer is, one doesn't. but many do. when i was contacted about creating a sculpture honoring alice dunnigan, i decided to begin where she began, which was russellville, kentucky. i began by visiting the residents. 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 russellville, kentucky, a wildly diverse group of people who were all passionate about one thing. 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. 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 -- kind of like what dr. dawson said, so many people hadn't heard of her. she really was far ahead of her time. so i reviewed -- i began reviewing images of her as a sculptor, we try to capture 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 convey her to the world and tell her story.
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." i was told "the washington post" didn't hire black reporters at the time. 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 that's what i kept coming back to. so then i looked at her posture and her stance in that image. 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 wanted to capture that in the sculpture. in the photo, however, she's looking down the steps. because the photographer is actually on a few steps below her taking the shot. 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 chose to change to address a little bit and bring her stance up. 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.recurr
book. 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 to 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 schoolteacher 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 maybe 36 cents per yard. it takes three or four yards to make a dress. which i did myself saving the cost of the seamstress. 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
schoolteacher, which helped me regain some of my self-respect. i had become practically thread threadbare. i said, i'm not going to sunday school or church service anymore until i get decent shoes. stay at home if you want to. i don't care. it is her husband's 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 family. it made me realize the only way i would get anywhere in life or do anything worthwhile would be to do it on my own. 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 ladder regard when hemlines dropped and i had no cash for new clothes. one of my contacts told me later that i paid a price for that when some of its middle class socialize members objected to my receiving an award from the organization on grounds that i wasn't representative of black women because i went to the white house in, quote, those old short dresses. 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 i wondered how its members could take such an attitude towards someone who worked so hard to pull herself up by her own bootstraps. finally, the whistle stop tour. she was trying to find the funds to go on the whistle stop tour. she writes in her book, i turned to my sorority.
i could offer no more -- but it could offer no more than a ceremonial sendoff and a corsage, which i turned down, suggested 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. 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 had done in her own descriptions. to include her gloves and include her pearls in the sculpture. to leave her hat floppy. to leave a few scuffs on her shoes to help tell her story.
what else needed to be conveyed in the sculpture honoring her life? she 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. this desire became quite a challenge. i contacted "the washington post." i contacted the people who handled their media. i asked them if i could secure a license to replicate a copy. they said no, that can't be done. so i went online. i found anyone who had contact information. i began contacting anyone i could find at "the washington post." i called, i e-mailed. 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 th that e washington post" did. however, i did not give up. i started searching for the director and the manager of communications. as soon as i found out who that was, i began making calls again. leaving messages. nicely reminding them that i was going to keep calling until someone else called me back. and she did. 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. there was a lot mentioned on this particular newspaper about president and mrs. truman. some of the headlines, which you can read if you look closely, we replicated it in such a way that it's legible. you can read the newspaper in her hands as part of the sculpture. one of the headlines says capitol termed graphic non-democracy. the capitol was labeled 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 the nation 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. she likes independence, missouri. 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 one 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. 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 the way to our future. alice dunnigan envisions a future of equality. 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 ] >> 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 russellville, kentucky. 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. we have more stops to make before that. it will be permanently installed and unveiled, i think august 2nd of this year. >> across the street from the house. a permanent guardian. >> honestly, i think she deserves to be in washington, d.c. this is not something i've 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 that her voice and her 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 russellville independent school. we were working with them for two weeks. they read the book. it was anticipate inspiration to a lot of the young women. this is what we did in conjunction with the students.
chris holliman is the art teacher. i'm a quilter. you know, it's interesting because dunnigan, she took sewing. do you remember anything about that? was she a good seamstress? >> she sewed her own dresses. >> she has that connection. she was an all around woman. cook, sewed and run the country. any other questions? i'm curious to know the people know before now did you know anything about her. how many people knew about alice dunnigan before you heard about this event at the truman library? how many? three.
>> i would say she visited my hometown, clarksville. i had never heard about her. i consider myself a historian. i'm proud to know she came to clarksville, tennessee. everyone will be there in august. we owe her a lot. >> part of what i heard from the citizens of russellville, was a desire to introduce her or reintroduce her to the nation as part of this process. so the opportunity at the museum was incredible. my daughters, who are more technically savvy than i am, they were kind of following things online. 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. she was covered in "the washington post" and in "the new york times" and in the bbc in england and africa and germany. we had no idea that this would happen. 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 -- when you think of the civil rights movement, what is the decade that you associate that with? she was 20 years ahead of that. so she broke barriers and just -- to say a trailblazer almost isn't even a strong enough word. such a visionary.
so ahead of her time. at the museum, i remember saying, she knew her place and it wasn't where everybody else thought it was. 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 russellville, the small town. for those who don't know, russellville is an hour and 15 minutes from nashville. it's about maybe two hours from louisville, kentucky. she never forgot it. she would go back and forth. she would do civil rights things in russellville. she never forgot. humility. when you talked about always working with her community, always making the place that you are a better place. that was alice dunnigan. there's a lot of these other press women and unsung people
that kansas has. there's a lot of these women around the world. their stories need to be told. we have stories about individual families. we have people who stood the test of time and did things. tell your stories. because dunnigan left this footprint. if she didn't do this, we couldn't be here today. she left it. those of us 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 an obligation to do that. >> dr. dawson, you talked about two of her books. one was the original and then
there was another. is it possible to get the original? >> it's a little difficult to find. it's not in print anymore. this is the one -- she did an excellent job of editing. job o. remember, this is how big the first one was. and in this first book she leaves all the foot -- i mean, a lot of details. that's why i looked and found just the other day, lucille buford, just countless details. >> i wanted to also say there is another book that she wrote -- she wasn't only interested in telling her story, but she wrote a book about black kentuckians and the fascinating story. >> right. >> she was always teaching. >> [ inaudible ]. >> that book is out of print. we're talking now with the family about how to release this one again. when we were in lexington recently that has come up, you
know, do we want to at least make it -- update it to talk about some others. places like kentucky i think many times people don't even think about african-american history in those places. i'm from kansas originally, people don't think about black people in kansas, you know? i think it's time for some new things to come about and that new book -- 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 -- 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 same. >> yes. >> any other questions? >> yes, my question was was she denied access into the press area because she was a female, black, or was she just 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 credentialed to be even part of this. 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 say, kansas city 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, you know, it turned so much and made such a big difference in the history. by just that small thing. so imagine you are writing about the injustice of the people, but simultaneously you have been mistreated. i know when i was doing some research on the -- once this person, marie ross, who was the kansas side of the kansas city caller, i had pictures -- saw pictures that she had given me when she was covering some stories and 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 -- white reporters and black reporters that we don't think about because, 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. >> so we talk about her being a trailblazer and it's easy to talk about all of the great things in that work, but i know that there was a lot of personal sacrifice on her part to be able to be in that, and in 1947 i'm just curious what did her town think of her at the time? what did her family think of her at the time? and what kind of personal toll did it take to be able to carry such an important mission forward? >> well, the town she had -- that's why she went to d.c., because she had difficulty in the town, because she was organizing people in the town, and so that's why she had to find some other place to survive. so, 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 claude barnett who was 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 she faced a lot of gender discrimination. i mean, it was ongoing. that's why i personally identified with her because, you know, she is just, you know, all the things that she had to go through, you know. early in life she, you know, had to work with like the cc camp, the civilian conservation camp and clean cemeteries, she was a maid at one period, a cook, laundry. 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. >> okay? she had to pawn her watch sometimes to make it through the weekend, you know? and these stories when she had to travel, she had to come up with that money. i mean, it was no -- as langston hughes says, it was no crystal stair, not by any stretch of the imagination. that's why she means so much to so many of us. the three of us sitting here, you have a personal thing, but she's like my grandma, too. i feel like i identify with her. i have given this book 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 men 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 the sculpture because this came up over and over. she gives such a nuance and character in 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." >> and that's the edited version. >> this one was edited by carol mccabe booker from the original
version which is over 600 pages long. >> if you can find one of these, keep it. it is a treasure now. >> it is. >> there's a question. >> i don't think either one of you addressed her educational background, so could you just tell us a little bit about -- i mean, was she a self-taught journalist or was she -- >> okay. >> did she have a journalist degree? >> well, she -- first of all, she went to kentucky state university in the beginning which at that time was -- kentucky was a normal school. so she started with that. she takes classes throughout working -- she was working as a teacher, she was taking classes at i think howard at one period, tennessee state at one period, she took one -- took classes at one of the technical schools in paducah. 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 may have to have t she did it much earlier in her life. she was a life learner but she would always take classes here or there to attain education. remember, in her time where could she -- she couldn't go to school but mostly the hcbus. in most places she couldn't have gone to school. was there another question? because there's one more thing which i didn't read and i think it's important. it was why -- it was an interview done about why -- what does she think about getting these press credentials and this is what she says. she says, open the doors of the white house, the congressional press galleries and the state -- and the state department. show the definite recognition of the fact that negro-americans are not second-class citizens, deserving only secondhand news. it affords the opportunity to get the pertinent facts to the minority groups firsthand and
interpret them in the light of their full context. this certainly makes it possible for me to provide an enlarged service to the 112 associated press negro papers. this was something -- she took great pride in this, what she was doing. great pride. >> we wanted to thank our panel for just an excellent scintillating discussion and we appreciate them. [ applause ] >> i want to thank all of you for being here tonight as well and for c-span for the coverage and we hope you will come and join us again for another program. thanks and have a good evening. ♪♪
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