Alice Allison Dunnigan returns home for 8th of August and beyond
By Jim Turner

Posted on July 28, 2019 5:13 PM


Alice Allison Dunnigan is home again.

Three major events during this week’s 8th of August Emancipation Celebration are designed to make certain that everyone welcomes her back, pays tribute to her memory, and appreciates the vital role she played in the history of America and African Americans’ attempt to become truly equal.

In the process, Russellville/Logan County will have a chance to welcome what may become the prime tourist attraction we have been searching for over the decades.

A statue which bears a remarkable resemblance to Dunnigan has been on an extended tour of major cities. After a long and popular run on display at the Newseum in Washington and stints at the Truman Museum in Missouri, the University of Kentucky and Kentucky State University. The statue has been erected at a permanent location in the yard of the primary building of the West Kentucky African American Heritage Center. That’s located at the corner of Sixth and Morgan streets in Russellville.

A formal unveiling of the bronze statute is scheduled for this Friday at 4 p.m.  In addition to family members, the speakers will include Sonya Ross, the Associated Press’ editor of Race and Ethnicity. The public is welcome.

Two other special events, the Farm to Home Dinner and the Emancipation Parade, will also have an Alice Allison Dunnigan central theme.

Born in 1906, Alice Allison was the daughter of a tenant farming family. She earned a degree at Kentucky State University and taught in the Logan and Todd county schools, which were still segregated, for 18 years before heading to Washington to be a journalist in 1942. She had written her first newspaper article for an Owensboro newspaper as a young teen.

After starting in a government job, she went to work for the Associated Negro Press and became the first African American woman to become a member of the Congressional Press Corps. Her stories appeared in more than one hundred African American newspapers. She later received White House press credentials and made history as part of the press corps covering President Harry Truman’s “Whistle Stop Tour.”

She went on to report on three more presidents and continued to build her legacy and her fame. As a result, she has been inducted into several state and national halls of fame. When Republican Dwight Eisenhower was in the White House, access was more difficult for her, but when the country returned to Democratic presidents, she was more accepted during the height of the Civil Rights Movement. She left journalism to work in the administration of President Lyndon Johnson.

“Aunt Alice” made several trips to Russellville to visit with her family before her death in 1983.

Emancipation Parade

Rochelle Jackson Sydnor says, “The 2019 Emancipation Parade Grand Marshals will be the descendants of Ms Alice Allison Dunnigan. Ms Dunnigan’s descendants will be traveling from KY, TN. DC, NC, GA, IN, & CA to participate. We consider this an honor. Special thanks to her local nieces, Angela Allison Stephens and Penny Allison Lockhart, for working with us to make this happen.”

The theme of the parade, which begins at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, is ‘The Time is Now” with a subtitle “Bringing Home Mrs. Alice Allison Dunnigan.” The Cane Ridge Marching Band will be part of the parade.

Farm to Table Dinner

The Dunnigan-related activities begin on Thursday with the Farm to Table Dinner, which will serve as a fundraiser for the Alice Allison Dunnigan Scholarship Fund. It will include tours of the museums beginning at 1:30 p.m., Hors d’oeuvres at 2:30, remarks by the Associated Press’ Ross at 3:30, and the meal at 4.

All of this will take place at the Heritage Center at Sixth and Morgan. In case of rain, the program and meal will be moved to the Logan County Extension Office.

Some of the food to be served has been grown at the Russellville Urban Gardening project site. That initiative, which is designed to teach students about gardening and healthy foods, is headed by Dr. Nancy Dawson, who has also been a leader in the making the Dunnigan statue a reality.

The dinner will be prepared by Chef Olivia Perry. Tickets—which cost $35 for one person or $60 for a couple—can be obtained through Dr. Dawson at 270-847-8726.

SEEK dedication

Friday’s unveiling of the statue, which was fashioned by Lexington artist Amanda Matthews, also will serve as a dedication of SEEK Museum, which stands for Struggles for Emancipation and Equality in Kentucky. A sign proclaiming that title has been erected near the statue on Morgan Street.

According to Wes Swietek of the Daily News, SEEK also includes the Bibb House museum on the other side of downtown Russellville and Seventh and Winter streets, which is famous for its owner, Richard Bibb having released 99 of his slaves. He says the museum will host a reunion of Bibb descendants will be held Saturday afternoon at the Bibb House.

Local attorney J. Gran Clark has been instrumental in making all this happen. He is a leader in the West Kentucky African American Heritage Center and he has worked for many years on the Bibb Museum project.

Much of the knowledge about local African American history is the result of years of dedicated research by Russellville historian Michael Morrow. He has worked tirelessly on making the Heritage Center a reality.

Russellville Blues

Also a leader in making the Heritage Center’s viable is Michael Gough, a Russellville native and famed blues performer. For several years, he has secured the talented performers who have come to that area for free concerts sponsored by Russellville Blues known as the Mary Ann Fisher Summer Concert Series.

This week’s Emancipation Proclamation Celebration (also known as the 8th of August) will feature Charlene Blay & 2nd Edition at 7 p.m., followed by the Tee Dee Young Band at 9. That, too, will take place in the backyard of the West Kentucky African American Heritage Center.

Busy weekend

These are only a few of the events planned for this annual event which brings thousands of people to Russellville every year. It’s believed that this is the second most attended celebration in Logan County annually, trailing only the Tobacco & Heritage Festival.

Good sources of Emancipation Celebration details are Dorris Vick at Concerned Citizens and Kathy Benton Edmonds at Kathy’s Hair Salon.

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