Alone atop the Hill
The Autobiography of Alice Dunnigan, Pioneer of the National Black Press

Written by Alice Dunnigan
Edited by Carol McCabe Booker
Foreword by Simeon Booker

The powerful life and times of the first black woman to break into the national press corps in Washington, D.C.


Alone Atop the Hill is a poignant and revealing account of Alice Dunnigan’s life from her childhood in rural poverty to her adulthood in education and journalism. The narrative casts valuable light on the politics of race prior to the emergence of the civil rights movement. From start to finish I was drawn into Dunnigan’s stories, both personal and political.”
—Eric Arnesen, professor of history, George Washington University

“Thanks to Carol Booker for bringing to light this marvelously documented life of Alice Dunnigan, who shattered racial and gender barriers as chief of the Associated Negro Press Bureau in Washington. In straightforward prose, Dunnigan gives the reader an unflinching look at how she persevered and how the Negro press kept civil rights before the public through the forties and fifties, preparing the way for when white America began to wake up. This is an honest history of the black experience from a woman whose first-person encounters with Presidents Truman, Eisenhower, and Kennedy, too, lift the curtain and inform our understanding of how race played out then at the highest levels of government.”
—Eleanor Clift, Daily Beast correspondent and McLaughlin Group panelist

"This poignant, engaging true story beautifully supplements Dunnigan's 2013 induction in the National Association of Black Journalist's Hall of Fame. It is highly recommended for scholars and general readers interested in the history of journalism, especially the black press, women in journalism, and the national press corps."
Library Journal

"Dunnigan’s indelible self-portrait affirms that while the media landscape has changed, along with some social attitudes and practices, discrimination is far from vanquished, and we still need dedicated and brave journalists to serve as clarion investigators, witnesses, and voices of conscience."
—Donna Seaman, Booklist (starred review)

"In Alone Atop the Hill, editor Carol McCabe Booker brings Dunnigan’s story to light. . . . Thanks to [the author], we can now read this remarkable account of a woman who rose from humble roots to become a respected civil rights journalist with unprecedented access to the corridors of power."
—Karen Lyon, Hill Rag Magazine

"This revised edition of Alice Dunnigan’s story deservedly elevates her to the pantheon of African American and female pioneers of American history. . . . Extensive footnotes place Dunnigan’s achievements in historical context and highlight just how remarkable some of them were, not just for a woman, not just for an African American, but for any journalist. . . . Alone Atop the Hill gives deserved recognition to a principled and hardworking reporter whose array of singular accomplishments makes her worthy of further scholarship and public attention."
—Rachel Jagareski, Foreword Reviews

"Booker has done a wonderful job of bringing [the autobiography] back into print and her editor’s notes are terrific."
—James McGrath Morris, Eye on the Struggle Blog

"[This] book[-] provide[s] a fascinating timeline of history to enlighten a generation that takes it for granted that a black woman can be the most powerful media personality in the United States. . . . The editor[-] tell[s] the very specific stories reasonably well. . . . [Booker] machetes Dunnigan’s 1974 self-published book down to the adventure-filled bone. . . . [The] work[-] [is] a fantastic prologue for study of black-oriented journalistic work in Washington, D.C. . . . But perhaps the most important audience for [Alone Atop the Hill] is young black women who want, as their employment, the ability to question high authority—those who are not afraid to step into the spotlight and fight for inclusion in Washington’s boys club on their own terms as independent African Americans."
—Todd Steven Burroughs, The Root

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In 1942 Alice Allison Dunnigan, a sharecropper’s daughter from Kentucky, made her way to the nation’s capital and a career in journalism that eventually led her to the White House. With Alone atop the Hill, Carol McCabe Booker has condensed Dunnigan’s 1974 self-published autobiography to appeal to a general audience and has added scholarly annotations that provide historical context. Dunnigan’s dynamic story reveals her importance to the fields of journalism, women’s history, and the civil rights movement and creates a compelling portrait of a groundbreaking American.

Dunnigan recounts her formative years in rural Kentucky as she struggled for a living, telling bluntly and simply what life was like in a Border State in the first half of the twentieth century. Later she takes readers to Washington, D.C., where we see her rise from a typist during World War II to a reporter. Ultimately she would become the first black female reporter accredited to the White House; authorized to travel with a U.S. president; credentialed by the House and Senate Press Galleries; accredited to the Department of State and the Supreme Court; voted into the White House Newswomen’s Association and the Women’s National Press Club; and recognized as a Washington sports reporter.

A contemporary of Helen Thomas and a forerunner of Ethel Payne, Dunnigan traveled with President Truman on his coast-to-coast, whistle-stop tour; was the first reporter to query President Eisenhower about civil rights; and provided front-page coverage for more than one hundred black newspapers of virtually every race issue before the Congress, the federal courts, and the presidential administration. Here she provides an uninhibited, unembellished, and unvarnished look at the terrain, the players, and the politics in a rough-and-tumble national capital struggling to make its way through a nascent, postwar racial revolution.

A Sarah Mills Hodge Fund Publication

Page count: 240 pp.
27 b&w photos
Trim size: 6 x 9


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Carol McCabe Booker is a former journalist and Washington, D.C., attorney. She is coauthor with her husband, journalist Simeon Booker, of the highly acclaimed history Shocking the Conscience: A Reporter’s Account of the Civil Rights Movement.