A statue of Russellville native Alice Dunnigan is being unveiled Sept. 21 the Newseum, a Washington, D.C. museum that promotes an understanding of freedom of the press and the First Amendment. Dunnigan was a Kentucky journalist who broke racial and gender barriers.
Dunnigan rose from her childhood in Logan County as the daughter of a sharecropper and a laundress to become the first African-American woman to get press credentials to cover the White House and Congress. She achieved that journalistic breakthrough in 1947.
Sculptor Amanda Matthews created the statue of Dunnigan in her Prometheus Foundry in Lexington, Kentucky. Matthews said she got input from members of the Russellville community on how to express Dunnigan’s character in a sculpture.
"They wanted her to seem self-assured. They wanted her to seem humble but also knowledgeable," said Matthews. "They wanted her to be represented in a very fearless way.”
Matthews said community members want Dunnigan to be remembered especially for her influence on American culture and society, by bringing important information to the public.
“They wanted integrity in the sculpture of her likeness as well as reference to journalism and in that iconic image she’s standing on the Capitol steps holding an issue of the Washington Post,” said Matthews, who created the statue from the community input and that photo.
Dunnigan was the only African-American woman, and one of only three black journalists, to accompany President Harry Truman on his 1948 “whistle stop” campaign tour, where she often questioned the president about civil rights. Her reporting on that issue was widely distributed in 112 African-American newspapers across the country.